Today Marks One Year Since MDL Lab Launched

April 19, 2021 | 1 Comment

Today marks one year since the official launch of the Bermuda Government Molecular Diagnostic Laboratory [MDL] with MDL having processed over 210,000 test results, and noting that the “7-day, 16 hours a day operation relies on the hard work of 20 of Bermuda’s finest young people, all under 40 years of age.”

A spokesperson said, “Today marks one full year since the official launch of the Bermuda Government Molecular Diagnostic Laboratory [MDL] on April 19, 2020.

Humble Beginnings

“Reflecting on a roller coaster of a first year, we have achieved so much.

“Less than two weeks after Dr. Weldon had been approached to return to the island to increase our island’s testing capacity, she landed in Bermuda on the 6th of April with 2 PCR machines and 38,000 test kits. These items were donated to ensure that every Bermudian had equal access to testing, our best tool in this fight against COVID-19.

“Recognizing the need for persons to ‘test out’ of the quarantine hotels, 209 samples were collected by the Department of Health in one day, a 5 fold increase in the usual testing per day at the time. This first batch that arrived at MDL on April 19, 2020, also ironically included Dr. Weldon’s sample. Terence Martinez and Jordan Bascome, MDL’s pioneer staff, processed these results using the newly introduced pooling method, which saved time, money and resources.

“MDL’s next few days were spent preparing to set up the first drive-through testing site at Southside, working in conjunction with Dr. Amne Osseyran and the Ministry of Public Works.

Milestones

“In our first year of operation, we have accomplished so much. While the immediate goal had been to increase Bermuda’s testing capacity while also reducing the time it took to process results, we actually went a step further and set the standard for maintaining the most stringent testing regime in the world.

“While the rest of the world struggled to test, track, trace and isolate, we had already recognized the benefits of a sample pooling strategy and were able to increase our testing capacity as early as April 2020. When scientists around the world were still learning about the effects the virus had on our immune system, we had already been conducting antibody testing since May 2020. When other countries began debating whether or not testing centers should report the cycle threshold [Ct] value, we had already been including these values since June 2020.

“While the rest of the world fell behind in efforts to track Covid-19 variants, our team has been able to rapidly identify those of most concern since February 2021, which assisted the Bermuda government in managing this current outbreak and developing policies to reduce further spread of the more transmissible variant.

“We are proud to have been able to support the Bermuda government’s ambitious efforts, from maintaining our tourism product in the face of a pandemic last summer to managing through the outbreaks and keeping up with the demand of testing over the last year. This ambition has been realized as we are now far away from the 209 samples we started with a year ago, with our record day being 10-fold higher on April 3, 2021, reaching 2,150 samples.

“Over the past 365 days, we have:

  • Trained over 30 Bermudians in molecular diagnostic testing;
  • Processed over 210,000 test results;
  • Co-created a customized system that delivers results in real-time to the Ministry of Health, general practitioners and the general public, and
  • Saved over $60 million in insurance payments for testing, allowing tests to remain free to the general public

Thank You

“In the past year, the Bermuda Molecular Diagnostic Lab has become home to a community of talented individuals.

“Our current 7-day, 16 hours a day operation relies on the hard work of 20 of Bermuda’s finest young people, all under 40 years of age.

  • Dr. Carika Weldon Laboratory Director
  • Miss Jordan Bascome PCR Laboratory Coordinator
  • Mr. Terence Martinez PCR Laboratory Supervisor
  • Miss Tahdae Tucker PCR Laboratory Supervisor
  • Mr. Stefan Holdipp PCR Laboratory Supervisor
  • Miss Shirina Simmons Junior PCR Laboratory Supervisor
  • Miss Keizhari Knight Junior PCR Laboratory Supervisor
  • Miss Renee Dill PCR Laboratory Technician
  • Lord Charlie Pilgrim PCR Laboratory Technician
  • Miss Shaena Simons PCR Laboratory Technician
  • Miss T’Yanna Hayward PCR Laboratory Technician
  • Miss Taala Somner PCR Laboratory Technician
  • Mr. Max Stirling PCR Laboratory Technician
  • Miss Sacara Phillips PCR Laboratory Technician
  • Miss Cocy-Lynn Simmons PCR Laboratory Technician
  • Miss Kezia Battersbee Administrative Assistant
  • Mr. Ian Lashley Administrative Assistant
  • Miss Veronica Degraff Administrative Assistant
  • Miss Rhiannon Ryden Chief Administrator
  • Mr. Tarik Bean Darrell Saliva Testing Coordinator

“Last month, we expanded the MDL Team to offer additional saliva testing capacity in our schools and throughout the wider community. This team of 10 have already made their mark and expanded their reach by working collaboratively with the Ministry of Health to offer less invasive testing options to the Bermuda public for the first time.

“We want to recognize former MDL staff who have gone off to further their studies which include: Mr. Dylan Muldoon; Mr. Phillip Burgess Jr.; Miss Calais Darrell; Miss Ashlee Lambe; and Miss Jalen Means.

“We would also like to acknowledge the “Southside Swabbers” who volunteered for 6 weeks under the leadership of Dr. Amne Osseyran, to safely swab the country out of SIP, Phase 1 and Phase 2.

“This team of 14 young trailblazers who stepped up to the plate include: Miss Toya Anderson; Miss Nafisa Robinson; Miss Nia Dailey; Miss Sadaije Riley; Miss Sacara Phillips [MDL]; Miss Taala Somner [MDL]; Miss Kristin Steede; Mr. Tahj Cox; Miss Dasha Caines, RN; Miss Kayah Wilks; Miss Jade Robinson; Miss Elizabeth Davis; Miss Dejhah Simons; and Dr. Kianda Simons.

“We want to thank our high school volunteer, Tana van den Berg, along with the many 2020 summer interns who stepped in to assist when we needed it most. Special mentions to: Mr. Dean Parris, who has ensured the logistical coordination between MDL and the Department of Health has been smooth; Senator Arianna Hodgson, who has assisted greatly in MDL’s HR matters and even Mr. Erwin Sadsad of CleanCo Commercial Cleaning Services Ltd., who has cleaned our laboratory to the highest standards every day.

“We strongly value our partners at the Ministry of Health, who have accommodated us in their laboratory space, ensured every incoming traveler is swabbed and that everyone in the community is tested, continued surveillance in our rest homes and long-term care facilities, and as we have seen most recently, that outbreak testing is conducted for all who need it.

“We are proud to be a part of a strong network of laboratories in Bermuda who are working together to keep our people safe. We look to continue serving alongside HELIX Genetic and Scientific Solution, C & S West Limited and the KEMH Laboratory to see us through this present outbreak and beyond.

“This is very much a team effort, and we thank our community partners who have supported our endeavours to serve the community from the very beginning. These include, but are not limited to: The Bermuda Hospitals Board, the Bermuda Tourism Authority, ResPartner, Cedar Aviation Services Ltd. and Northshore Medical & Aesthetics Centre. MDL looks forward to working with each of you as we strive on into the next phase of service.

“We are forever grateful to Roche Bermuda, who have played an instrumental role in our development as a laboratory over the past year. Since March 2020, they have graciously donated numerous laboratory machines and kits.

“In addition, MDL staff have had unbridled insight to a wealth of knowledge from our sister islands via a strong collaboration with the Roche Caribbean branch. It is through Roche Bermuda’s facilitation that our young Bermudian staff have access to continuous technical professional development opportunities.

“Last but not least, we thank our Premier, the Hon. E. David Burt, JP. MP., along with his Cabinet team who have consistently given us the space and resources to stretch our capacity. Despite consistent and considerable change, his belief in our excellence and innovation has given us the push we need to put Bermuda on the world map for testing.

Looking Ahead

“More than anything, we are grateful for the opportunity to serve.

“Over the past year, we have developed as a team, we’ve built a lot of great relationships and we are incredibly excited for what the future holds. Dr. Weldon has always expressed a desire to usher in a culture of science by Bermudians — for Bermudians — in Bermuda — and this is our goal for the foreseeable future.

“This pandemic has given us an opportunity to push the envelope and dream a little bigger and it is in this same spirit that we look forward to the next developments as a laboratory in the next 12 months.”

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  1. Vote for Me says:

    To the entire MDL team and everyone (many of whom have not been named) associated with the testing and sampling.. WELL DONE.

    All Bermuda residents and visitors owe you a debt of gratitude. It is notable that most of the team are less than 30!!

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