AN ABINGDON laboratory owner and entrepreneur has donated £1m of his own money to establish a network of coronavirus testing premises which could carry out 800,000 tests every day.

Mike Fischer CBE is an Oxford University Physics graduate who runs a small non-profit medical research lab in Abingdon, called Systems Biology Laboratory (SBL) which is currently testing around 100 local NHS workers per day.

With a team of just five people, he estimates this could be scaled to 500 people per day once they have honed the testing process.

He has launched the COVID-19 Volunteer Testing Network, which aims to create an army of independent laboratories.

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Mr Fischer estimates there are thousands of small labs across the country which can use common pieces of equipment to test for the disease. This includes the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) machine, which is commonly used for genetic testing.

Mr Fischer told BBC Radio 5 Live: “Our aspirational goal ... is that if we can get to 1,000 labs doing 800 tests per day within a few months, that will provide 800,000 tests per day.

“That capacity will help enormously in mass population testing.

“So this is a call to arms - if you have the equipment and experience then you can do this. You are worth your weight in gold. We need everyone who has got the experience and equipment and the facilities to start doing it.”

SBL, the Abingdon lab, is currently testing more than 200 NHS workers at 18 surgeries in Oxfordshire twice a week.

The method confirms if people are virus-free or currently have the virus, but not if they have already had it.

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Mr Fischer, who also co-founded the stock imagery company Alamy, said: “These machines, which typically cost less than £1,000, are common across testing labs. Every biology department in a university will have dozens.

“All you need is a PCR machine, a level two or higher containment facility and two or three people who know what they are doing.”

Professor Julian Peto is a cancer epidemiologist at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and he supports the project.

He told Sky News: “These PCR machines are in every university and commercial lab in Britain so I’m sure you’ve got 14,000 of them.

“If the people who are already operating those machines turned over to testing to the virus, you’d be able to test everyone in Britain once a week, and you’d be able to test every other day people who come into contact with patients - nurses, doctors, the NHS in particular.”

Laboratories wishing to join the project should visit the website