ECACC started 2020 with a shutdown of our ultra-low temperature storage (ULTS) facility, resulting in a suspension of all order dispatch. A fault in the oxygen monitoring system meant that it was not safe for our dispatch team to work in our UTLS due to the risk of asphyxiation if there was an undetected liquid nitrogen leak. Our dispatch team worked diligently with contractors and other PHE departments to restore normal working conditions. However, as we are all aware, the coronavirus pandemic was sweeping the world and by April, we had to suspend all non-essential and non-COVID related activities.
During the pandemic, our whole team have been supporting PHE’s national response. Team members from quality control, the Scientific Development Group, cell banking, and marketing were, and continue to be, seconded to PHE’s COVID-19 response. Our team have been committed to both antibody and antigen testing, helping to meet the UK Government’s coronavirus testing commitments. We also gave up some of our facilities to this testing, which resulted in our suspension of nucleic acid manufacture.
The commitment shown by the ECACC team during this period was awesome, as they continued to bank cell lines such as Vero C1008 for use in coronavirus research around the world. No one could have quite predicted the massive interest we would have in this line, so our flexibility to manufacture nearly 400 vials by the end of 2020 was an incredible feat.
During this period, our order processing team have also been supporting the wider PHE team by undertaking data entry for the different COVID tasks. As soon as order dispatch could recommence, our order processing team and dispatch team worked tirelessly to clear the backlog created by the shutdown as quickly as possible. Working with distribution partners, we managed to fulfil our mission to support scientific research worldwide.
As we enter 2021 in a national lockdown in England, we have a lot to look forward to! It is an exciting time in the ECACC team, and we are all looking forward to a year of new products and services. We have the launch of our updated STR Profiling service AuthentiCell, the release of 45 cancer cell lines from the University of Miami and new products within the EBiSC catalogue, such as progenitor cell lines. We will also restart supplying nucleic acids and providing custom banking and services, and contributing to the virtual ECCO 2021 meeting in September.
The whole of the Culture Collections team is grateful for the continued support and patience of our customers. We know there have been missteps along the way as we all adjusted to a new way of working, but our team is committed to providing the best service to our customers as possible.
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