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

Notes to editors:

About the University of Nottingham

Ranked 32 in Europe and 16th in the UK by the QS World University Rankings: Europe 2024, the University of Nottingham is a founding member of the Russell Group of research-intensive universities. 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.

Nottingham was crowned Sports University of the Year by The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2024 – the third time it has been given the honour since 2018 – and by the Daily Mail University Guide 2024.

The university is among the best universities in the UK for the strength of our research, positioned seventh for research power in the UK according to REF 2021. The birthplace of discoveries such as MRI and ibuprofen, our innovations transform lives and tackle global problems such as sustainable food supplies, ending modern slavery, developing greener transport, and reducing reliance on fossil fuels.

The university is a major employer and industry partner - locally and globally - and our graduates are the second most targeted by the UK's top employers, according to The Graduate Market in 2022 report by High Fliers Research.

We lead the Universities for Nottingham initiative, in partnership with Nottingham Trent University, a pioneering collaboration between the city’s two world-class institutions to improve levels of prosperity, opportunity, sustainability, health and wellbeing for residents in the city and region we are proud to call home.

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