Bermuda Post

Friday, Sep 25, 2020

New COVID-19 testing lab to open next week

New COVID-19 testing lab to open next week

Partnership with Enterprise City firm helped make lab happen
Cayman’s second coronavirus test lab, at CTMH Doctors Hospital, is expected to be operational next week.

The lab, which will dramatically increase Cayman’s daily testing capacity, was made possible through a partnership with an Australian genetics firm that has a presence in the Special Economic Zone of Cayman Enterprise City.

The Pan American Health Organization approved the lab Friday and it is expected to begin processing patients within the next few days.

Behind the scenes, the hospital has been working with Rhetus International, a subsidiary of OzGene, which produces genetically modified mice for drug trials worldwide.

Cayman Enterprise City companies are not typically permitted to operate in the local economy, but a special exemption was granted to allow Doctors Hospital to tap into on-island expertise.

The new lab, in combination with increased capacity at the Health Services Authority, will help facilitate widespread testing throughout the Cayman Islands – considered a critical tactic in containing the virus.

Dr. Frank Koentgen, of Rhetus International, said the lab would be able to test hundreds of Cayman residents every day.

“We can currently run 120 coronavirus tests on a shift with a turnaround time of three hours and are scaling to run 650 tests in a shift,” he said.

“This will significantly increase current throughput and offer shorter lead times, enabling results to get back to the patient sooner.”

Joanne Deys, president of Ozgene, has assisted with project logistics.

She said a sophisticated “closed loop” system had been designed to ensure the safe handling and processing of the samples, from swab to results.

Dr. Yaron Rado, chairman of the board at the hospital, called the collaboration and the opening of the lab a proud moment.

“We are expecting paperwork with the government to be completed within the next days and hope to start COVID-19 testing early next week,” Rado said.

“Our team, especially our lab manager, Gayon Allen-Goulbourne, has been working tirelessly over the last month to enable Doctors Hospital to play an integral part in the COVID response of the Cayman Islands,” he added.

Charlie Kirkconnell, CEO of Cayman Enterprise City, said the partnership was a good example of government being flexible during a crisis.

“Dr. Koentgen and Deys are leveraging their technical knowledge, experience, leadership skills, and global networks to assist CTMH Doctors Hospital and our wider community during the COVID-19 outbreak,” added Kirkconnell. “I can think of no better example of how important it is to have world-class technically qualified people as part of the Cayman Islands community – we cannot thank them enough.”
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