OpenCell Partners with King’s College and Opentrons To Create Affordable Shipping Container COVID-19 Testing Lab

LONDON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Scientists from and King's College London, in partnership with Opentrons Labworks, have developed a low-cost rapidly deployable COVID testing lab inside a shipping container that can process 2,400 tests per day.

This is the first fully functional lab that can be immediately deployed anywhere in the world for COVID testing. The system uses low-cost liquid handling robots developed by Opentrons Labworks to perform a qPCR (the gold-standard nucleic acid detection test) to detect the presence of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

This system design is open-source and the test relies on reagents and consumables that are not single-source or proprietary. This means it is free from the supply chain restrictions faced by many COVID-19 testing labs that all require reagents from the same few suppliers. Given Opentrons ability to rapidly deploy lab automation, and the shipping container form factor of this testing lab, this system is ready to be sent wherever automated testing bandwidth is needed.

The team has just been awarded an Innovate UK grant for business-led innovation in response to global disruption to accelerate the translation of their work from one proof-of-concept mobile-lab to many labs running much needed tests. OpenCell CEO Helene Steiner says, “This work is a vital step to increasing the number of accredited labs capable of performing COVID testing. Through Innovate UK support as well as an incredible team, we are working closely with regulators to ensure our testing lab system remains capable of high quality, low cost and meets the rigorous standards required to perform population testing.”

The validation data and open-source protocols will appear on BioRxiv, a popular preprint research database that has been used extensively to share COVID-19 testing information as it develops. To learn more about this system, visit

About OpenCell:
OpenCell transformed 70 shipping containers in White City London into affordable biolaboratories for biotechnology start-ups. Founded in 2018 by Helene Steiner and Dr. Thomas Meany with the goal of making biotechnology more accessible and affordable. To learn more, visit

About Opentrons Labworks:
Opentrons makes automation accessible for any lab, starting with affordable pipetting robots for biologists. With its easy-to-use hardware and an open software platform, Opentrons automates manual lab work and empowers collaborative research for life scientists. Opentrons has helped over 1,500 labs in 45 countries save time, money and lab costs—including 47 of the top 50 academic universities in the world such as MIT, Oxford, and Stanford, and 9 of the top 10 pharmaceutical companies such as GSK, Merck, and Novartis. To learn more, visit


Helene Steiner