Yourgene Health, the City Labs Manchester-based molecular diagnostics group, has signed an agreement with Anglo-French biotechnology group Novacyt to support production of COVID-19 diagnostic tests.

The tests have been developed by Primerdesign, Novacyt’s molecular diagnostics division. The deal relates to contract manufacturing services with Novacyt.

Yourgene will make use of its state-of-the-art manufacturing facility at Citylabs in Manchester to work alongside Novacyt to ramp-up production of their COVID-19 test. The first batches are expected to be shipped from the Citylabs site over the next few weeks.

In the interest of speed, the company will initially manufacture critical components for Primerdesign’s COVID-19 test.

The two companies may subsequently seek to expand the agreement to utilise Yourgene’s ability to produce final versions of the COVID-19 testing kits.

Yourgene’s GMP (Good Manufacturing Practices) facility has the capacity to support the manufacture of critical components for the production of COVID-19 diagnostic tests, while continuing its own PCR (polymerase chain reaction) production.

Should the requirement to produce COVID-19 tests expand, the company may need to increase capacity to replenish PCR stocks and maintain continuity of supply of existing Yourgene product lines.

The company said it is well prepared to do this and is able to utilise its expertise in automation to assist in the scale up of production.

In addition to supporting manufacturing efforts, the company is also in the process of expanding its laboratory capabilities to support the NHS in COVID-19 laboratory service testing.

Expanding into another diagnostic test aligns with Yourgene’s strategy to expand the company’s product portfolio and bring new products to market.

Yourgene chief executive Lyn Rees said:

“We are pleased to be able to utilise our high-quality manufacturing skills to support Novacyt in the production of a key diagnostic test for COVID-19.

“This manufacturing agreement illustrates that we have an incredibly skilled workforce and flexible manufacturing capabilities to support diagnostic test developers at critical times.

“Business demand for our core products and services is proving to be very resilient to current market conditions, albeit with isolated areas of friction for travel or customs restrictions.

“I would like to thank our committed workforce for their tremendous endeavours in supporting the medical supply chain at this time.”

Graham Mullis, chief executive of Novacyt, said:

“As the global demand for our COVID-19 test continues to increase, we are pleased to have rapidly established a relationship with the expert team at Yourgene to further expand our manufacturing capacity.

“We look forward to working with Yourgene as we continue to ensure we are fully prepared to meet the demand for our test to support the global response to monitor and contain the COVID-19 pandemic.”