A £100,000 grant has funded new equipment to help Norwich scientists test 2,000 patient samples a day for coronavirus antibodies.
The donation from the Masonic Charitable Foundation has purchased a DYNEX Agility Unit machine to process and analyse more blood samples.
The samples will look for antibodies to see if a person has had coronavirus and if they may have gained any immunity from it.
The machine is set to arrive in July with samples of “vital” care home and NHS staff tested first.
The gift from Freemasons in Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex and Hertforshire will make a “huge difference.” say health experts.
Professor Bill Fraser, head of Norwich Medical School at UEA and a consultant metabolic physician and chemical pathologist at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, said: “We are really very grateful for the support of the region’s Freemasons.
“Every single test is vital in the fight against this disease and this equipment will make a huge difference.”
The university said the work made possible by the new machine alongside its Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS) will make the testing process faster and more accurate.
The lab will be able to accept samples from NHS hospitals across East Anglia.
The results of those samples may be used to help plan care home and NHS staff returning to work sooner and also be used to screen the general population.
Long term studies will explore how long the antibody production lasts and whether this does grant any protection from further infection.
Head of Norfolk Freemasons Stephen Allen said: “I’m delighted that Freemasons from across four counties are working with Professor Fraser and his team at UEA on this hugely important project, which aims to get NHS and other key workers back to their jobs, serving the local community.”
David Ellis, director of development at UEA, added: “We owe Mr Stephen Allen a particular debt of gratitude for the leadership he has shown in the region to rapidly garner support from his peers, helping to ensure the university can play the fullest possible role in facing the current pandemic.”