Nottingham Universities unite to enable safe COVID-19 testing

Thursday, 02 April 2020

Universities in Nottingham are helping to protect scientists testing for COVID-19, by providing the Government with essential safety cabinets.

The Category 2 Cell Culture Cabinets will provide a highly controlled environment to protect skilled scientists, who are also needed to carry out tests for COVID-19, in a safe way.

The 27 cabinets were collected by the British Armed Forces from the University of Nottingham and Nottingham Trent University. The size of the units meant it took five 7.5 tonne trucks to move them all.

This latest requisition comes after the universities joined forces to provide £1m worth of Polymerase Chain Reaction, or PCR, equipment to the Government last week.

This was the largest shipment of PCR machines from any university in the country, potentially allowing the number of tests for the presence of COVID-19 to be increased by up to 20,000 a day.

The Category 2 Cell Culture Cabinets, 16 of which have come from the Biodiscovery Institute at the University of Nottingham and 11 from Nottingham Trent University, look like big hooded cabinets. They have open fronts and a vertical air flow, so outside air is run through a filter before it gets inside. There is also a filter to clean air from inside before it goes outside the cabinet.

Used in microbiology labs, pharmaceutical labs, and cancer research labs the equipment protects the bacteria, viruses, and carcinogens being manipulated inside the cabinet while shielding them from outside contamination.

Loading up the cabinets

They have had to undergo a rigorous cleaning process, made possible by teams of technicians and clinical staff, before being made available to help with the national fight against the virus.

Professor Chris Denning, Director of the BioDiscovery Institute at the University of Nottingham, said: “Right now our researchers and physicians are on the front line in the effort to understand COVID-19 and to treat the patients who have become ill with it. We are also helping the local and national efforts to test who is infected with COVID-19.

“Following on from the PCR machines, these cabinets are essential to the testing efforts because they create a highly controlled environment that keep our scientists safe whilst carrying out the testing.

“The equipment we have provided so far will potentially maximise testing to tens of thousands a day. However, the Government needs to get more testing kits. If they achieve that, the only missing bit will be people and we have plenty of volunteers too, if called upon.”

The British armed Forces

Both universities said they were committed to supporting communities, local partners and the nation in many different ways.

Professor Nigel Wright, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Research and Innovation, at Nottingham Trent University, said: “We are glad to be able assist the national response to COVID-19 through the provision of further equipment following the Prime Minister’s call for assistance. 

“This builds on our recent commitment to supply machines used by our researchers which can enable more tests for coronavirus and we are again working with our friends at the University of Nottingham in order to provide this important support.”

Hear more from Professor Chris Denning here about the valuable donation.

For more information about the University’s approach to supporting local and national organisations visit

The University of Nottingham and Nottingham Trent University launched the Universities for Nottingham in January, an initiative to improve the way the universities work with each other and their local partners to help change the lives of local people for the better. For more information visit

Charlotte Anscombe - Media Relations Manager - Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences
Phone: 0115 748 4417

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Notes to editors:

The University of Nottingham is a research-intensive university with a proud heritage. Studying at the University of Nottingham is a life-changing experience and we pride ourselves on unlocking the potential of our students. We have a pioneering spirit, expressed in the vision of our founder Sir Jesse Boot, which has seen us lead the way in establishing campuses in China and Malaysia - part of a globally connected network of education, research and industrial engagement. Ranked 103rd out of more than 1,000 institutions globally and 18th in the UK by the QS World University Rankings 2022, the University’s state-of-the-art facilities and inclusive and disability sport provision is reflected in its crowning as The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2021 Sports University of the Year. We are ranked eighth for research power in the UK according to REF 2014. We have six beacons of research excellence helping to transform lives and change the world; we are also a major employer and industry partner - locally and globally. Alongside Nottingham Trent University, we lead the Universities for Nottingham initiative, a pioneering collaboration which brings together the combined strength and civic missions of Nottingham’s two world-class universities and is working with local communities and partners to aid recovery and renewal following the COVID-19 pandemic.

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