Stanhope, Mitsui Fudosan and AIMCo said today a sequencing laboratory for COVID mutant monitoring has been temporarily installed on the Gateway East site at White City Place to help in the fight against the pandemic.

The lab is located alongside a larger installation also today of rapid response shipping-container laboratories for COVID-19 PCR testing.

The trio said this is the first time a dedicated testing and sequencing laboratory will be deployed together.

They explained: "Although the UK has some of the most advanced DNA sequencing capability, sequencing of the COVID genome is still limited and more capacity is needed. The concern is that more mutations may occur and that vaccines may not be effective on these variants."

The opening comes as mutations in the region of the viral genome responsible for the “spike protein” are causing particular concern and have already been identified in South Africa, the United Kingdom and Brazil.

Biotechnology company OpenCell, with existing operations in White City, designed and manufactured the units within shipping containers with a custom workflow for COVID diagnostics. They have shipped a number of the same units internationally and provide airport PCR testing for the Isle of Jersey.

The trio estimate that by basing the units as close as possible to the point of need they are capable of a turnaround time of 12 hours from swab to result for local residents and workers.

Since opening in 2017, White City Place has emerged as a leading life science and biotech hubs alongside the new Imperial College campus. Companies to have moved their headquarters and laboratories to the site, including the global pharmaceutical firm Novartis, Autolus and other life sciences companies such as Synthace, Gamma Delta and Engitix. In 2020, White City Place, not including the Gateway site, was acquired by Cadillac Fairview, the real estate arm of the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan.

Jonathan Trout, Property and Commercial Director, Stanhope said: “We are pleased to have had the opportunity to work with OpenCell to help play our part in the fight against COVID-19 and to make available this space at our life sciences hub at White City Place. This is the first time that dedicated testing and DNA sequencing laboratories have been deployed together and is indicative of the enterprising spirit and innovation that White City Place has become known for.”

Helene Steiner, OpenCell CEO, stated: “We are proud to support the UK in this most challenging time with laboratories capable of thousands of tests daily, delivered efficiently and at the point of need. White City is the heart of biotech in the UK and this is the optimal location to provide the shortest possible turnaround time for those within the catchment radius of three miles.”

OpenCell develops biotechnology laboratories and is headquartered in 70 shipping container laboratories in White City London. It was founded in 2018 by Helene Steiner and Dr. Thomas Meany with the goal of making biotechnology labs better.

Stanhope, Mitsui Fudosan and AIMCo are the developers and owners of the Gateway site at the life sciences, innovation and creative business district at White City Place.

In 2020, Cadillac Fairview, the real estate arm of the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan, acquired White City Place, excluding the Gateway site.

The Gateway Development is composed of three different sites East, West and Central each of which has been designated for the construction of a new building. Construction has commenced on the two of the three new buildings - Gateway Central and West. L’Oréal UK and Ireland recently announced they would be moving their UK headquarters to six floors of the new 11 storey building at Gateway Central, which is due for completion in 2022.

The Gateway East site, has planning permission for a 500,000 sqft life science and office headquarters building.