Tackling COVID-19: Karl Wilson

Karl Wilson outside the laboratory

Operations Director Karl Wilson has helped lead a herculean effort to transform a standard laboratory into a bespoke testing centre, to aid the national response against COVID-19. For him, there was never any question about whether we should - or could - do this.

On Friday 20 March, Karl Wilson received a phone call which would turn his life upside-down for the next six weeks.

“After a hectic week of closing down labs across the University, I was adjusting to my first day of working from home,” remembers Wilson. “I’d managed a couple of hours work in my spare room (having just set up my new desk with the ‘help’ of my four year old daughter), when I received a call to say that the University would be partnering with pharmaceutical giants AstraZeneca and GSK to set up a testing centre for Covid-19, in the newly built Anne McLaren Building.

“I knew it would be a huge undertaking but there was no question in my mind about it. It was just a case of ‘yes, let’s do this.’”

An hour later Wilson found himself at the lab discussing floor plans, safety cabinets and sample-prepping-robots. “It’s been a whirlwind ever since,” he says. 

A project of this scale would ordinarily take around six months to complete but incredibly the lab was ready to begin trialling tests in just three weeks. Wilson explained that this phenomenal feat was testament to the positive approach of everyone involved in the project. “There’s never been any hesitation, never a question of ‘what’s in it for me?’ It’s always just been a case of ‘how can I help?’”

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Reproduced courtesy of the University of Cambridge


The University of Cambridge is acknowledged as one of the world's leading higher education and research institutions. The University was instrumental in the formation of the Cambridge Network and its Vice- Chancellor, Professor Stephen Toope, is also the President of the Cambridge Network.

University of Cambridge (cam.ac.uk)