News & Events
News & Events

National Reference Laboratory Leverages Resources to Support COVID-19 Strategy in the UAE

29 Apr 2020
Abu Dhabi

Mubadala Healthcare Facility has the Equipment and Skilled Staff Required to Undertake Accurate Testing on Large Scale

As the UAE government has identified widespread, accurate testing as a proven effective measure to curb the spread of COVID-19, National Reference Laboratory (NRL) is upscaling its operations to increase its capacity for testing from 3,500 to 6,000 per day.

National Reference Laboratory Leverages Resources to Support COVID-19 Strategy in the UAE

Hasan Jasem Al Nowais, Senior Vice President of Mubadala Healthcare, says: “Our NRL facility was able to help the national effort as it possesses the scalable infrastructure, diagnostic capabilities and professional support that were required to take on this vital role quickly and reliably.”

He added: “All Mubadala Healthcare facilities are joining forces as part of the countrywide effort to tackle COVID-19 and alleviate its impact on the population and economy. We believe it is our duty to do everything we can to help the UAE successfully navigate this challenge.”

NRL is one of only a few laboratories in the country that performs COVID-19 testing in a Biosafety Level-3 (BSL-3) laboratory. Such laboratories conform to the highest level of standards required by the World Health Organization (WHO) for widespread diagnostic testing for COVID-19. In line with WHO and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations, NRL tests all samples separately, while maintaining a fast turn-around time.

Abdul Hamid Oubeisi, Chief Executive Officer of NRL, explains: “When the situation arose, NRL rapidly implemented a test method validation and developed a comprehensive workflow for onsite COVID-19 testing to perform accurate and rapid polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing for COVID-19.”

He adds: “NRL’s infrastructure, technology and manpower – which includes 14 pathologists and clinical scientists and more than 200 medical laboratory technologists – allows for the processing of a high number of samples. The laboratory functions 24/7 to accommodate the demand, and due to our robust laboratory network, we could deploy a large number of skilled medical technologists to assure complete coverage at any time for this project.”

NRL Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Basel Altrabulsi, points out that there are different types of testing available for COVID-19, each with its own advantages, and that NRL is capable of taking on whichever measures are deemed most suitable by the UAE government with immediate effect.

Dr. Altrabulsi explains: “The current molecular diagnostic testing relies on a technology called PCR and searches for evidence of the virus’s RNA genome. Viral RNA-based tests are useful in the acute illness setting and for individual patient management, as well as implementing strategies to prevent the spread in healthcare facilities and the community.

“However, we are also evaluating a blood-test technique, called serological (or antibody) testing. This type of blood testing may not be as useful in the setting of acute illness, but instead is very useful in contact tracing and surveillance at a local or national level.”

Dr. Altrabulsi concludes: “In my opinion, both of these type of tests are important tools to control and reveal the full scope of this outbreak. We are in the fortunate position of being able to mobilize whatever testing protocols are required.”

CEO Oubeisi adds: “NRL is also collaborating with several academic institutions in the UAE to fast-track research projects related to COVID-19. Since research and findings on this topic are evolving daily, NRL is doing everything it can to positively contribute and stay at the forefront of this research so that it will be able to play its part in supporting the UAE government.”