International Day of Women and Girls in Science 2024

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International Day of Women and Girls in Science 2024

For the 9th consecutive year, the field of science has taken this day to celebrate women in the STEM industries and their achievements. The representation of women in STEM is climbing, however it remains low, with estimates claiming women make up only around 26% of the workforce. By celebrating the accomplishments of women in these fields, we hope to encourage more girls to enter the world of science and engineering and challenge the adversity women in STEM all too often face.

In honour of International Day of Women and Girls in Science 2024, we’ve looked at some of the most important achievements in the life sciences. Some of the names you’ll be familiar with, others may be new. We’ll travel to Ancient Greece where we will learn about the first female science writer and surgeon, before coming back to today to recognise some of the most groundbreaking innovations in medicine. For far too long the door to a career in the life sciences has been all but closed for women, as you will discover in this article. Yet some of the discoveries and triumphs over adversity we’ll look at are arguably some of the most important achieved by humanity.

Metrodora

In Ancient Greece, it was believed that science was derived directly from the gods. This meant, like other divine disciplines, women were not allowed to practice medicine. However, such a technicality did not stop our first heroine of science. Before her exploits in Greece, Metrodora was likely born and educated in Egypt where men and woman were equals, unlike much of the ancient world. In fact, some believe Metrodora to be an alias of the famous Cleopatra VII, Queen of Egypt. There is some debate about when Metrodora lived; some say between 200-400 CE, others claim it was more likely to be during the 7th century CE. The name Metrodora is particularly fitting for a woman of her accolades. In Greek, metro can be translated as womb, and dora means gift.

Metrodora was the author of a textbook, making her the first female science writer, spanning 2 volumes and 108 chapters entitled On the Disease and Cures of Women, in which she describes in detail her theories and findings on the topics of female health and the reproductive system. She is thought to have devised treatments for sterility, infections of the female reproductive system, menorrhagia (heavy periods) as well as a method for determining sexual abuse in women. Not to be limited by writing and medicine, Metrodora was also a surgeon, cited as removing dead embryos to save the lives of mothers who miscarried, removing cancers of the breast and uterus and was even among the first to perform cosmetic surgery. Metrodora reconciled this with her Hippocratic duty to help women who had been abused through aesthetic facial and breast reconstruction and the restructuring of the hymen of women who had suffered this fate.

Her pioneering work, however, was quite nearly forgotten forever as she was largely overlooked by her contemporaries. But thankfully, some of her texts are preserved in the Laurentian Library in Florence. Metrodora’s commitment to medicine and female health is summed up perfectly in the opening words of her text, “some of them are intricate to treat and others are fatal, by these notes we will recognise each one”.

 

 

 

Elizabeth Blackwell (1821-1910)

Elizabeth Blackwell was always destined to shake the status quo. Her father, Samuel, was a Quaker and an antislavery activist. Among her siblings are Henry, an abolitionist and women’s suffrage supporter; her sister, Emily, who followed Elizabeth into medicine; and her sister-in-law, Antoinette Brown Blackwell, who was the first female minister in mainstream Protestantism.

She was inspired into a life of medicine after a close friend had confessed embarrassment of her treatment by male doctors and suggested she’d have been more comfortable if attended to by a female physician. After a series of rejections from numerous medical schools, Elizabeth was finally accepted to Geneva College, New York. However, this acceptance was intended as a practical joke. Not to be discouraged, Elizabeth proved them all wrong, graduating top of her class in 1849 and becoming the first woman to graduate medical school. Dr Blackwell then practiced in London and Paris and was one of the first advocates for the importance of hygiene in medicine, noting that male doctors frequently failed to wash their hands, which led to the spread of epidemics.

In 1851, Elizabeth made the trip back to New York where discrimination was still rife. Once again, her persistence led to the opening of the New York Infirmary for Women and Children in 1857 with Dr Emily Blackwell and Dr Marie Zakrzewska. This institution was a haven for women who needed medical treatment but were often too poor to afford it, and for female physicians struggling to get work in the field. Among her laurels, she played a role in the inception of the National Health Society, established in 1871, which aimed to spread knowledge of public health, and is considered the predecessor to the National Health Service.

 

 

Marie Curie (1867-1934)

Marie Curie is among the most famous of the women in science, so we won’t spend too much time on her life and accomplishments here. However, its impossible to have the discussion without mentioning her invaluable contribution to science. In often poor laboratory conditions with worse equipment, she, and her husband Pierre Curie, made some pivotal discoveries including the isolation of polonium and radium. Marie Curie developed techniques to separate radium from radioactive residues which allowed it to be studied extensively and eventually, its use as a therapeutic agent.

In 1903, Marie and Pierre Curie were awarded half of the Nobel Prize for Physics for their work on spontaneous radiation. Then, in 1911, Marie Curie was given a second Nobel Prize, this one for chemistry, for her work on radioactivity. In recognition of her groundbreaking work leading to novel cancer therapies, the charity Marie Curie was named in her honour, immortalising her and her contributions to the field.

Marie Curie, 1867-1934

Gerty Cori (1896-1957)

Here we find another woman whose name outshines that of her husband, Carl, with whom she collaborated for most of her scientific career. Gerty graduated from medical school in 1920, along with her husband, before they emigrated to America in 1922. Here, they initially delved into the fate of sugar within the animal body, exploring the impacts of insulin and epinephrine. They made groundbreaking discoveries, including the demonstration of glycolysis in tumours in vivo. Their research on carbohydrate metabolism evolved from whole animal studies to experiments on isolated tissues, and eventually to tissue extracts and isolated enzymes, including some in crystalline form. In a pivotal moment in 1936, they isolated glucose-1-phosphate, known as “Cori ester,” and linked its formation to the activity of phosphorylase, which plays a crucial role in the breakdown and synthesis of polysaccharides. This discovery paved the way for the enzymatic synthesis of glycogen and starch in vitro.

Their research extended into the realm of hormone action mechanisms, with several studies focusing on the pituitary gland. They observed significant changes in rats that have had their pituitary gland removed, including a marked decrease in glycogen and a drop in blood sugar levels, accompanied by an increased rate of glucose oxidation. Further investigations into the effects of hormones on hexokinase revealed that certain pituitary extracts could inhibit this enzyme both in vivo and in vitro, while insulin was found to counteract this inhibition.

Beyond their groundbreaking research, the Cori’s served as an endless source of inspiration to their peers in the vibrant hubs of biochemical research they led. Their contributions to The Journal of Biological Chemistry and numerous other scientific journals have left an indelible mark on the field, showcasing their innovative work and collaborative spirit throughout their careers.

 

 

 

 

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Gertrude Belle Elion (1918-1999)

Gertrude provides us with another tale of the triumph over adversity. After graduating with a degree in biochemistry in 1937, she failed to obtain a graduate position because she was a woman. After roles in laboratories and teaching, she joined the Burroughs Wellcome Laboratories in 1944 and became the assistant to Dr George Hitchings. Over the following 40 years, the pair were successful in the development of a vast array of new drugs and treatments. Much of their success is attributed to their methods. At the time, normal practice is best described as trial and error. However, Hitchings and Elion studied and intimately understood the difference between normal and pathogenic biochemistry, allowing them to envision and create targeted treatments for, to name just a few, leukaemia, urinary-tract infection, gout, malaria and viral herpes.

Although she never achieved her doctorate, in 1967 Elion was promoted to Head of the Department of Experimental Therapy, where she remained until her retirement in 1983. But Elion didn’t let a silly old thing like retirement get in her way. She remained at the Burroughs Wellcome Laboratories as a Scientist Emeritus and Consultant, including overseeing the development of azidothymidine, the first drug used to treat AIDS. Elion also became a Research Professor of Medicine and Pharmacology at Duke University, working with medical students in the field of tumour biochemistry and pharmacology, while continuing to write and lecture. Gertrude B. Elion passed away in 1999, bringing an end to a happy and fruitful career as one of the most influential women in science.

 

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Rosalind Franklin (1920-1958)

Rosalind Franklin, another well-known name and one synonymous with the discovery of the DNA double helix, was an exceptional scientist whose meticulous work in X-ray crystallography laid the groundwork for one of the 20th century’s most significant scientific discoveries. Franklin graduated from Cambridge University in 1941, where she initially delved into the study of coal, gases, and carbon compounds, significantly contributing to the understanding of the molecular structures of these materials. Her early research not only showcased her exceptional skills in physical chemistry but also set the stage for her pioneering work in biology.

In 1951, Franklin joined King’s College London, where she was tasked with improving the X-ray crystallography unit. It was here that Franklin embarked on her most famous work: the study of the structure of DNA. Using her expertise in X-ray diffraction techniques, she captured Photograph 51, a critical piece of evidence revealing the helical structure of DNA. This image was crucial in identifying the double helix structure, although her contributions were not fully acknowledged until after her death.

Franklin’s research extended beyond DNA to the study of viruses, making significant strides in understanding the polio virus and the tobacco mosaic virus. Her work in virology, much like her work on DNA, was pioneering, employing her crystallography skills to uncover the detailed structure of viral particles. This work provided valuable insights into how viruses replicate and infect cells, contributing to the broader field of virology and paving the way for future research in virus structure and function.

Despite facing considerable challenges as a woman in a predominantly male scientific community, Franklin’s contributions were profound. Her relentless pursuit of scientific truth, combined with her exceptional experimental skills, left a legacy in the fields of chemistry, virology, and genetics. Beyond her scientific achievements, Franklin is remembered as a trailblazer who paved the way for future generations of women in science, demonstrating the critical role of perseverance and dedication in the pursuit of knowledge.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. "Rosalind Franklin, British Scientist," Encyclopaedia Britannica (article created 20 Jul 1998, accessed 08 Jan 2024); https://www.britannica.com/biography/Rosalind-Franklin : https://cdn.britannica.com/30/99730-050-E68F62FF/Rosalind-Franklin.jpg
The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. "Rosalind Franklin, British Scientist," Encyclopaedia Britannica (article created 20 Jul 1998, accessed 08 Jan 2024); https://www.britannica.com/biography/Rosalind-Franklin : https://cdn.britannica.com/30/99730-050-E68F62FF/Rosalind-Franklin.jpg

Françoise Barré-Sinoussi (1947-)

When discussing women who changed science, it’s impossible not to mention Françoise Barré-Sinoussi. She was born in Paris in 1947 and attended university there. Her passion for science saw her skip class to work at the Pasteur Institute, participating in investigations of retroviruses that caused leukaemia in mice. Although, this didn’t seem to affect her exams scores, and she received her PhD in 1974.

Françoise Barré-Sinoussi is hailed as the woman who discovered the viral cause of the AIDS epidemic. In 1982, the Pasteur Institute was approached by a virologist from a hospital in Paris, seeking help in identifying the cause of a worrying new epidemic. In a mere 2 weeks, Barré-Sinoussi, and her colleagues at the Pasteur Institute, isolated and grew a retrovirus from a biopsied lymph node of a patient at risk of AIDS. The virus, later named HIV-1, was found to be the cause of the AIDS epidemic.

Barré-Sinoussi has been contributing to virology research ever since, including areas such as the function of the host’s innate immune defences in managing HIV/AIDS, the elements contributing to the transmission of HIV from mother to child, and traits enabling a select group of HIV-positive individuals to restrain HIV replication without the need for antiretroviral medications. In 1992, Barré-Sinoussi was appointed Head of the Biology of Retrovirus Unit, renamed the Regulation of Retroviral Infections Unit in 2005.

However, Barré-Sinoussi didn’t stop at the science. She became a prominent activist for public education about AIDS prevention and helped to establish centres for diagnosing and treating AIDS around the world. In 2006, Barré-Sinoussi was elected to the International AIDS Society (IAS) Governing Council and served as president of the IAS from 2012-2016.

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fran%C3%A7oise_Barr%C3%A9-Sinoussi#/media/File:Fran%C3%A7oise_Barr%C3%A9-Sinoussi-press_conference_Dec_06th,_2008-1.jpg

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Jennifer Douda and Emmanuelle Charpentier

Most people have heard of CRISPR-Cas9. But many aren’t aware that we have women to thank for this scientific innovation. In 2012, Jennifer Douda (left) and Emmanuelle Charpentier (right) discovered the ingenious CRISPR-Cas9 technology – a groundbreaking tool in genetic engineering, which holds the promise of revolutionising medicine and biology. By enabling precise editing of the DNA in the cells of living organisms, CRISPR-Cas9 could lead to cures for genetic disorders, enhance crop resistance to pests and diseases, and advance our understanding of complex genetic conditions. It offers the potential to correct genetic defects, combat infectious diseases, and even manipulate traits in plants and animals, paving the way for significant advancements in therapeutic treatments, agricultural productivity, and the study of genetics. This discovery saw both women share the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2020.

 

Photograph by Christopher Michel https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

 

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/66/Emmanuelle_Charpentier.jpg https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

We’ve only looked at a subsection of science, but one where the importance of the innovations and discoveries is felt by people every day. The scientists we’ve discussed here are only a small sample of the inspirational women that have graced the STEM field. We hope that by elucidating some of their work, we can inspire more girls and women to pursue a career in STEM. Careers in this field are challenging and rewarding, perfect for those with a curious mind and those in whom discovery sparks delight.


Randox Supports Family Business Week 21st-25th November 2022

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Randox Supports Family Business Week 21st-25th November 2022

 

 

The theme for Family Business Week 2022 is ‘Celebrating Our Place in the World’.  It will highlight the central role family firms play in shaping and supporting their local communities, economy and natural environment. The campaign is led by the IFB, the voice of the UK’s family business sector and supported by NatWest.

In honour of this week, Randox would like to share our family business history:

In April 1982, Randox Laboratories was founded by Dr Peter Fitzgerald from a converted chicken house off Randox Road, near Crumlin in Antrim, where he had grown up.

FitzGerald started out using equipment discarded by university research labs but, through decades of hard work and innovation, slowly built the company into a market leader. Randox Laboratories is now the largest diagnostics company from the UK with over 40 years of experience operating in over 145 countries.

The Covid-19 pandemic saw Randox Laboratories on the front line for testing for the Covid-19 virus across the UK and Ireland. After downloading the virus genetic sequence in January 2020, Randox were able to quickly develop a test. This meant that by March 2020, Randox were provided with a contract by Public Health England to test as part of the National Testing Program.

After investing in 78,000 sq ft of laboratory testing space and hiring additional staff, Randox were able to process over 25million PCR tests as part of the National Testing Program as well as private testing allowing a return to work and travel.

Expanding into the travel market and providing an essential service to people to travel to see loved ones after years in isolation.  There was a realisation that the future landscape for healthcare has changed forever.  People have become used to testing themselves.  People want to know the status of their health and are actively taking control of their health and wellbeing.

Randox Health has recently made significant investment to deliver our preventative, personalised testing packages across the nation and are opening up to 25 Randox Health clinics in the short term – In England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. Randox Health clinics focus on the provision of cost-effective, timely and accurate testing to identify risk to health, improve clinical diagnoses and promote preventative healthcare.  Our aim is to improve and save lives through early detection of disease.

The growing network of clinics provide easy access for millions of people to a new Randox range of diagnostic tests, including for cancer, vitamin deficiencies, hormone imbalances, allergies and key health concerns including heart, liver, and kidney conditions. Real time insights on current and future health risks are provided to empower clients to make simple dietary and lifestyle changes giving them the power to extend their lives.

Randox clinics also offer a new range of comprehensive diagnostic programmes, including the ‘EveryMan’ and ‘EveryWoman’ 12-month programmes/full body ‘MOTs’. These enable up to 150 data points linked to key health areas to be measured during each visit with a personalised health plan summarising results provided. Repeat tests and consultation will be arranged six months after the initial test, included in the testing programme prices, which start at £295 per person.

Happy Family Business Week 2022!

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Randox Win IT Team or Department of the Year at the 2022 Belfast Telegraph IT Awards

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Randox would like to congratulate the IT Department on their Belfast Telegraph IT Awards Win!

 

The Randox IT department were delighted to win the IT Team or Department of the Year award sponsored by Continu. Described as the ‘clear winner’ by Belfast Telegraph, Randox IT won the award due to their hard work and dedication during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The awards took place on Friday at the MAC Theatre in Belfast and was hosted by comedian Neil Delamere. Northern Ireland’s incredible IT industry was showcased displaying their great achievements and their significant, positive impact on the local economy.

In the past 12 months, Randox IT department transformed the cutting-edge systems and facilities created during the pandemic to allow customers to take control of their health through preventative testing.  Randox IT were very much at the forefront of innovation and continued to develop and enhance our offerings, processing 27 million covid results in total. Furthermore, expanding into the travel market and providing an essential service to people who could finally travel to see loved ones after years in isolation.

The team’s disruptive approach to development has allowed Randox to respond quickly in an ever-evolving situation and introduce a full end-to-end testing process facilitating multiple key stages such as, logistics, registration, accessioning, sample processing and results reporting.

At the beginning of 2022, there was a realization that the future landscape for healthcare has changed forever. People want to know the status of their health and are actively taking control of their health and wellbeing. Through these innovate solutions developed by Randox IT in the fight against covid, the team have focused on the future vision of healthcare and developed solutions for customers to test themselves, in clinic or at home, for areas such as heart health, Thyroid health, STI, Vit and Minerals as well as our most popular packages of Everyman, Everywomen, Signature, Every Athlete.

This has only been possible due to the dedication and expertise of the IT team who released a new version of the Randox Health customer platform, which provides each customer with a customized view of their health. Customers have key insights to their health data allowing them to track their health.

 

Randox would like to congratulate the Randox IT Department again on their second year of success at the IT Awards!

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Rebecca Cuthbert, Karen Gillespie, and Emma McGirk at the Belfast Telegraph IT Awards

Randox would like to Congratulate Eileen Nixon on her Retirement

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Randox would like to congratulate Eileen Nixon on her retirement!

 

Eileen has been a valuable member of Randox for 32 years beginning her career here in November 1990. She describes how remarkable the growth of Randox has been. From a smaller scale business back in 1990 to now the largest diagnostics company from the UK.

On Thursday morning, we celebrated Eileen’s achievements and fond memories during her time in our Manufacturing Division, within the Packing Team.  The room was filled with Eileen’s colleagues, many of whom had worked with Eileen for well over 20 years.  Eileen has been a great member of the Randox team and will be sorely missed.

We wish Eileen good health and every happiness for her retirement.

 

Eileen Nixon with Dr Peter Fitzgerald
Eileen Nixon with Dr Peter Fitzgerald

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We Are Randox | Northern Ireland Apprenticeship Week 2022 with Kane McIlroy

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Did you know that 7th – 11th February 2022 marks Apprenticeship Week in Northern Ireland?

The initiative from the Department for the Economy offers an opportunity through a dedicated week of events and promotional activity to demonstrate how apprenticeships work for individuals, business, communities and the wider economy.

To mark the week, we spoke to one of our Randox apprentices, Kane McIlroy, to find out more about his role, what he enjoys about the apprenticeship, and his advice for young people considering a career in software engineering.

Name: Kane McIlroy

Job: Software Engineering Apprentice

Department: Randox Engineering

Kane, what are the main duties of your role?

My current role is a Software Developer in the Randox Engineering R&D department. I have a keen interest in software development and in my role, I have had the opportunity to use various programming techniques. I work as part of a software team in which I write code and collaborate with others to create intuitive, responsive applications that allow users to interact with the Randox testing machines.

What and where you studied and why you chose the apprenticeship route?

I am enrolled in a Higher-level Apprenticeship with the Northern Regional College in Ballymena, where I am studying a foundation degree in Computer Science alongside my work at Randox. At Cambridge House Grammar School I studied Technology and Design for A-Level and it was during this time that I became very interested in IT.  My interest in technology led me to work in Curry’s Electrical Retail Store where I was very often placed in the computer department due to my interest.  I was trained in the shop’s range of hardware, software, equipment, and products. The Apprenticeship with Randox also gives me the opportunity to earn while I am still learning which is great. It means I have no student debt which is such a bonus!

What top three things you love about your job?

  1. As a Software Developer writing code, you will often be faced with bugs that need fixed. I really enjoy coding and the problem-solving that is involved in trying different ideas to implement the most efficient solution.
  2. I have had the opportunity to work on very exciting projects for a range of different Randox machines. Many of these have involved robotics, which are fascinating to work with as they allow me to implement code that instructs the machines to perform specific physical actions.
  3. Working in a diverse and experienced engineering team gives me the opportunity to continuously learn and challenge myself and this drives me to learn new coding skills.

What advice would you give to someone considering an apprenticeship route?

I would recommend the apprenticeship route as it is a fantastic opportunity to work, learn, and earn, all at the same time.  You will get hands-on experience in a real job without having to give up your education. Financially an apprenticeship has great benefits as it provides a fully funded education without the burden of student loans.  You gain experience that employers want, which will help with your future career. You also learn directly from experienced individuals working in your chosen industry and have access to their support, which helps you gain the skills and knowledge you require to achieve your goals.  If the apprenticeship role is something you’re interested in and are passionate about, I would highly recommend it as an excellent career path!

 

We are delighted to have Kane with us at Randox as part of our Apprenticeship Scheme. 

For more We Are Randox stories about our amazing colleagues, make sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and follow the hashtag #WeAreRandox.

For further information about Apprenticeships at Randox please email RandoxPR@randox.com or phone 028 9442 2413.

 

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We Are Randox | Randox IT team win Company of the Year at Belfast Telegraph’s IT Awards

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06 November 2021: Randox IT win IT Company of the Year at the Belfast Telegraph IT Awards 2021

A massive congratulations to the Randox IT team who won the most coveted category of Overall IT Company of the Year at the Belfast Telegraph IT Awards on Friday 5th November 2021.

The event from the Belfast-based media outlet, is an annual showcase of the finest that the Northern Ireland IT industry has to offer with both IT agencies and in-house IT teams vying for the chance to be crowned among the best their respective fields.

As well as winning IT Company of the Year, the Randox team also took home three other awards – triumphing in the categories of Digital Project of the Year, IT Project of the Year and IT Team of the Year.

Commenting on Randox’s achievements, the judging panel said: “While there were a number of very strong contenders, the judges felt that Randox were worthy winners of the Overall IT Company of the Year because of the way in which the team at Randox worked together at speed, to rise to the challenge of Covid.

“They were able to deliver a highly effective end-to-end solution to support the nationwide testing programme on a 24/7 basis, which has been hailed as a significant success in the fight against Covid-19.”

See an overview of their applications below.

In early 2020 Randox, the largest diagnostics company from the UK, recognised the threat from COVID-19 and based on almost 40 years of experience, developed a test to identify the virus in a greatly accelerated timeframe of just two weeks.

Faced with unprecedented demand for testing to curb the spread of the virus, the company stepped up to support the UK Government’s National COVID-19 Testing Programme without hesitation.

Armed with world-leading testing technology and expertise, the next step for Randox was to scale its capacity and infrastructure.

Growing from an initial testing capacity of just 150 samples on the first day of COVID testing in March 2020, to now a capacity of 500,000 COVID samples per day, Randox has to date tested almost 20 million samples across the National Testing Programme and private testing for international travel.

These accomplishments would not have been possible without the Randox IT team, who responded quickly in an ever-evolving situation and introduced a full end-to-end testing process inclusive of logistics, sample registration, accessioning and results reporting, for tens of thousands of daily tests.

The development of platforms such as an online sample kit registration portal, intelligent robotics automation, and an informatic lab workflow management system, all designed and developed entirely in-house, showcases the knowledge, expertise, responsiveness and overall capability within Randox IT.

Examples of innovative systems developed in-house by the Randox IT team include but are not limited to;

  • Online sample collection kit registration portal
  • Robust accessioning platform for sample receipt and chain of custody
  • End-to-end digital and informatic laboratory workflow management solution
  • Robotics for intelligent process automation
  • Fully automated result communication system
  • Intelligent data management
  • Diagnostic algorithm development

Each of these innovative and re-deployable platforms has been scaled across a number of different testing services. Initially intended for Randox’s new 80,000 sqft of molecular laboratory space at the company’s headquarters in Antrim, the systems are also in use across newly built adaptive labs in Manchester and London, in mobile testing vans at key airport locations, and in a number of walk-through and drive-through testing clinics across the UK and Ireland.

The improvements in IT automation, robotics and software capabilities, have enabled Randox to upscale its testing capability like no other – growing the company to be amongst the largest COVID-19 testing laboratories in Europe.

The finals for the Belfast Telegraph IT Awards 2021 took place on Friday 5th November 2021 in The Mac, Belfast. To find out more click here.

Congratulations to the Randox IT team!

 

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We Are Randox | Charlotte Dixon World Indoor Rowing Champion

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02 November 2021

Charlotte Dixon: Covid Scientist and World Indoor Rowing Champion

One of our favourite things about our We Are Randox series of staff interviews is the opportunity we are given to find out about the unique and interesting talents of our colleagues.

From creative bakers to melodious musicians, motivated youth leaders to athletic sportspeople, many of our staff are just as busy outside of the office as they are in it.

Take Covid Scientist Charlotte Dixon for example. During working hours Charlotte spends time in our Covid-19 testing laboratories – reviewing results before they are sent to the patient, helping her team with any issues they face, and compiling performance reports for management – but outside of work she is impressively the World Indoor Rowing Champion in the women’s U23 500m sprint, having beaten experienced competitors from Denmark, Egypt and Europe in the prestigious World Indoor Rowing Championships.

We caught up with Charlotte to find out about her intense training regime, her goals for the future of her rowing career, and her advice for anyone wanting to try a new sport or hobby.

1. Hi Charlotte, can you tell us about your job at Randox and the main responsibilities of the role?

I work in the Covid-19 Labs at the Randox Science Park in Antrim, as a Reviewer for a type of testing called qPCR. As a Reviewer I load plates of samples on to the machines which perform sample analysis to produce a negative or positive COVID result, and then review the results to ensure they are sent out correctly to the patient.

I am also the Shift Lead for my team, for which the main responsibility is to organise the shift and delegate any jobs that need done, ensuring I appropriately deal with any issues that may arise and communicate with the managers to resolve any problems.

2. What does a typical day look like in your role at Randox?

Depending on whether I’m doing a day or night shift, my day starts at 8am or 8pm with a handover meeting with the managers and other shift leads to discuss any points that need to be noted or carried forward from one shift to the next, and then the two labs for which I am a Shift Lead get deep cleaned. The 12 hour shifts normally involve a mixture of test scanning, witnessing and loading plates of samples, as well as reviewing results. Once I have written the shift report, the day/night finishes with a final tidy of the lab and another meeting with the team managing the next shift, to discuss the report and any issues to be passed on.

3. What was your educational / career background to get to this role?

I studied Biomedical Science at Ulster University Coleraine and graduated in 2019. Once graduated I took time out to focus on my equestrian ambitions and during this time I got the opportunity to compete internationally several times. Unfortunately, Covid-19 halted all competitions, but then the chance to work at Randox arose, and I jumped at the opportunity to put my science background to use.

4. What do you enjoy most about the job and what do you find most challenging?

During the pandemic I was grateful that my role in Covid testing meant I was able to play a direct role in the fight against the pandemic. However, I always say the best part about my job is the people I get to work with. I’ve made some amazing friends in this job and they really can make those long night shifts that little bit easier.

5. Tell us a bit about your title of “World Indoor Rowing Champion” – when and how did you receive this accolade?

Finishing University in 2019 I joined my local gym, Gladiator Training, in the aim to get fitter to benefit my horse riding, which I have done since I was little. I signed up to a 12-week indoor rowing programme and things really just went from there. At the end of 2019 I entered the Irish Indoor Rowing Championships for a bit of fun and won 2 races, before going on to place in the British Championships a few weeks later.

In 2020 things were a little different due to Covid restrictions but thankfully Indoor Rowing events could be held virtually. In December I won both the British and European U23 500m Championships, qualifying me for the World Indoor Rowing Championships.

After I qualified for the World’s, I was granted Elite athlete status which allowed me to train with my Coach at the gym even when restrictions meant it wasn’t open to the public. My training was so focused, and it was during this time that I made the most progress and realised how much I appreciate being able to train every day.

The World Indoor Rowing Championships, due to be held in California, was also held virtually due to restrictions. I had the fastest qualifying time going into the race and finished in Gold with a personal best time of 1:31.6 against competitors from across the world.

6. What does your training involve?

I train for 2 hours, 5-6 days a week. This is either at 5am before day shifts, 4pm before night shifts or 9am on days off. Working long hours means I have to be quite flexible with when I do my training, but I’m pretty used to it by now. What I do during training can vary quite a lot and depends on what type of competition I’m prepping for. In preparation for the World Championships, I rowed 2-3 days a week and then did a large amount of weight training on the other days to increase strength and sprint capacity.

7. What’s up next in your indoor rowing career?

Quite a lot of exciting things actually! I am currently preparing for the Irish indoor Rowing Championships held in Limerick on 20th November. This is my first year in the Senior category so I’m excited to try to go for Gold in multiple races. I have also just been accepted onto the British Rowing World Class Start Squad, a programme set up to find and train future Olympians. Rowing on water is something I have never done but I am so excited to give this a shot and see where it takes me!

8. Can you tell us a little bit about your equestrian interests and achievements?

I have been so fortunate to have had the opportunity to ride horses since as long as I can remember. I compete mainly in Eventing, which involves Dressage, Showjumping and Cross-Country – a bit like a triathlon for horses! Over the years I have notched up a few major titles including an U18 International Win, a Senior International Win (at only 19 years old), several other International placings and winning Team Gold at the Student Rider World Finals in Switzerland.

9. How do you juggle your time between work, rowing and equestrianism?

Juggling my time can be a bit difficult. Training on top of 12-hour shifts makes for extremely long days. I am so lucky though that I have an incredible team of people who support me with the horses and keep their fitness regimes up during competition season whilst I’m at work, leaving me to focus on riding them on my 4 days off. Riding and training are easy when they’re so enjoyable and I think that is the secret to juggling everything!

I’m very appreciative of the opportunities I’ve been offered at Randox and how accommodating they have been when it has come to my training schedule and I’m so excited for what the future holds with both my future sporting and working careers!

10. How do you like to relax when you have time in your busy schedule?

I really enjoy training and riding so I rarely feel like I need a ‘break’ from it but when I’m not working I just love going out for dinner to relax. I just enjoy eating lots of nice food.

11. What advice would you give to someone who wanted to try a new sport or hobby, or take one they have already to the next level?

I think whenever you take up a new hobby or sport you may not enjoy it that much at first, as chances are you won’t be very good at it! The key is to persevere and also find people who make it fun. A community of supportive people is the best thing about any sport. If you want to push yourself to the next level you just have to be prepared to work hard and do things that you haven’t done before. That’s how you’re going to make progress at the end of the day.

 

We are delighted to have Charlotte with us at Randox as part of our COVID-19 testing programme.

For current vacancies at Randox please visit randox.getgotjobs.co.uk

For more We Are Randox stories about our amazing colleagues, make sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and follow the hashtag #WeAreRandox.

For further information please contact Randox PR by emailing randoxpr@randox.com

 

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We Are Randox | Randox IT is shortlisted in the Belfast Telegraph IT Awards 2021

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19 October 2021: Randox IT Team is shortlisted in the Belfast Telegraph IT Awards 2021

Congratulations to the Randox IT department who have been shortlisted in four categories at the Belfast Telegraph IT Awards 2021.

The event from the Belfast-based media outlet, is set to be a showcase of the finest that the Northern Ireland IT industry has to offer with both IT agencies and in-house IT teams vying for the chance to be crowned among the best their respective fields.

Randox IT have been shortlisted for Digital Project of the Year, IT Team of the Year, IT Project Team of the Year, and Covid Response for their work on the development of IT systems required for nationwide COVID testing, playing a critical role in the fight against COVID-19.

See an overview of their applications below.

In early 2020 Randox, the largest diagnostics company from the UK, recognised the threat from COVID-19 and based on almost 40 years of experience, developed a test to identify the virus in a greatly accelerated timeframe of just two weeks.

Faced with unprecedented demand for testing to curb the spread of the virus, the company stepped up to support the UK Government’s National COVID-19 Testing Programme without hesitation.

Armed with world-leading testing technology and expertise, the next step for Randox was to scale its capacity and infrastructure.

Growing from an initial testing capacity of just 150 samples on the first day of COVID testing in March 2020, to now a capacity of 500,000 COVID samples per day, Randox has to date tested almost 20 million samples across the National Testing Programme and private testing for international travel.

These accomplishments would not have been possible without the Randox IT team, who responded quickly in an ever-evolving situation and introduced a full end-to-end testing process inclusive of logistics, sample registration, accessioning and results reporting, for tens of thousands of daily tests.

The development of platforms such as an online sample kit registration portal, intelligent robotics automation, and an informatic lab workflow management system, all designed and developed entirely in-house, showcases the knowledge, expertise, responsiveness and overall capability within Randox IT.

Examples of innovative systems developed in-house by the Randox IT team include but are not limited to;

  • Online sample collection kit registration portal
  • Robust accessioning platform for sample receipt and chain of custody
  • End-to-end digital and informatic laboratory workflow management solution
  • Robotics for intelligent process automation
  • Fully automated result communication system
  • Intelligent data management
  • Diagnostic algorithm development

Each of these innovative and re-deployable platforms has been scaled across a number of different testing services. Initially intended for Randox’s new 80,000 sqft of molecular laboratory space at the company’s headquarters in Antrim, the systems are also in use across newly built adaptive labs in Manchester and London, in mobile testing vans at key airport locations, and in a number of walk-through and drive-through testing clinics across the UK and Ireland.

The improvements in IT automation, robotics and software capabilities, have enabled Randox to upscale its testing capability like no other – growing the company to be amongst the largest COVID-19 testing laboratories in Europe.

The finals for the Belfast Telegraph IT Awards 2021 will take place on Friday 5th November 2021 in The Mac, Belfast and all finalists can be viewed here.

Good luck to the Randox IT department!

 

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We Are Randox | How Laura became a COVID-19 Laboratory Manager

11 February 2021

We Are Randox | How Laura became a COVID-19 Laboratory Manager

Randox is a key partner laboratory in the UK Government’s COVID-19 Testing Programme.

For an idea of what it’s like to be part of the COVID-19 testing programme at Randox, we spoke to Laboratory Manager Laura Cummings.

Laura spoke to us about what a typical day in our laboratories looks like, the career path she took to her current role, and how it feels to be making a difference in the global fight against COVID-19.

Name: Laura Cummings

Job Title: Laboratory Manager

Department: COVID-19 Laboratories

Can you describe a typical working day in the Randox COVID labs?

As the UK and Ireland’s largest COVID testing facility, Randox is critical to the national response to the pandemic. We run up to 120,000 daily tests for the UK Government’s National Testing Programme so the timely release of accurate and reliable results is key. We have a big focus on quality and are always looking for ways to improve our policies and processes. We have, for example, introduced a range of innovative robotic systems which automate the unpacking and racking of samples before they get tested by our scientists.  All this takes very active management.

What are the main duties of your role?

Our staff work 24|7 and my role as a Laboratory Manager is to make sure that they have everything they need to do their job. I ensure that the lab runs smoothly, provide solutions for any issues that may arise, and monitor the performance of the testing process.

What has been your educational route to this post? 

I studied Biological Sciences at Queen’s University Belfast and then worked in England for a few years, in an organic chemistry lab. I was really fortunate to be able to move back home, and find a job not just in my field of science, but in a company that has made such an impact in the fight against coronavirus. I’m very grateful that the team at Randox have recognised my skills and achievements and given me valuable opportunities for career progression, including my recent promotion to Manager of one of the COVID labs.

How does your work as a COVID Laboratory Manager make the world a better place?

I’m proud to be directly involved in COVID testing, which plays such a vital role in the effort to contain and reduce the spread of the virus, and to be making a difference for the sake of our family, friends and communities. We recently reached a key milestone in reporting 9 million COVID-19 tests to the National Testing Progamme – and by the time you read this we will be closing in on 10 million.

What do you really like about your job?

Randox has employed more than 850 new staff into the COVID labs, and to work with and learn from such a diverse and multi-disciplined team has been really rewarding. Everyone has risen to the challenge this pandemic has created and I am proud of how we have all pulled together as a team in a time of great need.

What is your perception of future career prospects in the diagnostics industry?

I think the future of the diagnostics industry is very bright and those thinking of a career in this area should definitely get involved. In setting up the Randox COVID labs we have done something which was never seen before in terms of infrastructure, capacity, and service, and across society there is an improved understanding of the importance of testing. I believe that this, coupled with further advancements in technology, will be a catalyst for more personalised healthcare individually tailored to each patient.

We are delighted to have Laura with us at Randox as part of our COVID-19 testing programme.

 

For current vacancies at Randox please visit randox.getgotjobs.co.uk

For more We Are Randox stories about our amazing colleagues, make sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and follow the hashtag #WeAreRandox.

For further information please email recruitment@randox.com or phone 028 9442 2413.

 

 

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We Are Randox | How Courtney became a COVID-19 Scientist and Trainer

08 October 2020

We Are Randox | How Courtney became a COVID-19 Scientist and Trainer

In support of our new £30m COVID-19 laboratories, we are recruiting across Engineering, Manufacturing and Science.

For an idea of what it’s like to be part of the COVID-19 testing programme at Randox, we spoke to Senior Scientist and Trainer Dr Courtney Ward.

Courtney spoke to us about what a typical day in our laboratories looks like, the career path she took to her current role, and how it feels to be making a difference in the global fight against COVID-19.

Name: Dr Courtney Ward

Job Title: Senior COVID-19 Scientist and Trainer

Department: COVID-19 Laboratories

Give a brief outline of your career to date.

During my undergrad studies, I spent a year working on developing drug delivery technologies for a pharmaceutical company in England. Then during my PhD I worked in the Research Funding team at Cancer Research UK, and subsequently, following the completion of my PhD, at the Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology at Queen’s University Belfast.

My next move led me to Randox, to work on new ways to diagnose a range of diseases.

What was your favourite subject at school?

At school I always enjoyed science, and in particular biology. Since a child I have been fascinated with how the human body works and how different diseases can affect this.

Did you go on to further/higher education, if so what did you study and where?

I studied for eight years at Imperial College London. This included an undergraduate in Biochemistry, a Masters degree in Structural and Molecular Biology, and finally, a PhD in Structural Biology/Biophysics, for which I studied how bacteria affect human cells during infection.

How did you get into your area of work?

As I had previous experience in infectious disease testing, I moved this year into the Randox COVID-19 team to help respond to the urgency of the situation. As our testing capacity, and subsequently our staffing levels, have increased so extensively, I also use my experience to train our new scientists, which is something I really enjoy.

Is this what you always wanted to do?

I have always loved science and knew my career would be within this sector. I also enjoy teaching and training, so being a COVID-19 trainer has combined my two favourite roles into one which has been great.

Were there any particular essential qualifications or experience needed?

Scientists involved in COVID testing will be exposed to molecular testing techniques including DNA extraction, PCR techniques and Biochip technology, so experience in these areas is advantageous. There are also a number of positions – like accessioning or administration – that do not require a science background and we include all the training needed for these roles.

What are the main personal skills your job requires?

For roles in testing, the most important skills are concentration and attention to detail. We deal with 1000s of samples in a shift so it is crucial to manage each one carefully as the results are so important to each individual patient. You also need to be a team player, focused and able to take initiative.

What does a typical day entail?

A typical day in our COVID-19 laboratory begins with a handover from the previous shift and then we are assigned our roles for the day. You may spend your day preparing reagents using liquid handling robots, or you may be involved in organising samples along with their corresponding paperwork. It is a varied and exciting role, as things move very quickly in the world of COVID-19 testing.

What are the best and most challenging aspects of the job?

The best thing about working in the Randox COVID labs is knowing you are contributing to the national testing effort and therefore making a real difference. Working with a team is great and gives you the chance to meet a lot of new people for a lot of different backgrounds. I also really enjoy seeing new scientists improve in confidence during their training. Seeing them working well on shift gives me great sense job satisfaction.

The most challenging aspect of COVID testing can be the time pressure, as getting results out to the patient as fast and accurately as possible means teams must work seamlessly together. Similarly with training, we need to ensure we have enough staff to support our testing labs and so this can lead to a lot of new staff needing training which we need to work through quickly and efficiently.

Why is what you do important?

COVID-19 has had a huge impact on every aspect of our lives. To be involved in testing, which is absolutely crucial in identifying clusters of infection and reducing further spread, is so important to me and spurs me on to work to the absolute best of my ability.

What advice would you give anyone looking to follow a similar career path?

For me, making sure you take any opportunity to further your development is critical, be it the prospect of learning a new technique or method, or the chance to join the fight against COVID-19! I have always jumped at the chance to learn something new and this has set me in good stead for my current role as a trainer.

If you weren’t doing this what would you like to do?

If I weren’t involved in laboratory work, I would still carry on my love of science and training, by teaching science. I have always loved teaching, and I tutor in my spare time – to inspire the next generation to study and work in STEM subjects.

What is the one piece of advice you would give to yourself on your first day?

Take in as much information as possible – there will be a lot of it! Ask as many questions as you can, particularly if you are unsure of anything.

Describe your ideal day off.

Catching up on Real Housewives and taking my dog to the beach for a swim.

And finally, what’s the key to any successful job search?

Make sure you read the job description and tailor your CV to each role to which you apply. Make it easy for the employer to see how your skills and experience meet the criteria for the job.

We are delighted to have Courtney with us at Randox as part of our COVID-19 testing programme.

 

For current vacancies at Randox please visit randox.getgotjobs.co.uk

For more We Are Randox stories about our amazing colleagues, make sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and follow the hashtag #WeAreRandox.

For further information please email recruitment@randox.com or phone 028 9442 2413.

 

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Contact us or visit our Randox Careers

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