THE UK Government has been urged by MPs to scrap plans to sell off a former Covid laboratory which received more than £1 billion of public funding - and is now being advertised on Rightmove.

The Rosalind Franklin Laboratory in Leamington Spa, which opened in June 2021, processed 8.5 million tests during the pandemic, according to the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) which runs the site.

However the "mega lab" closed in January 2023, resulting in the loss of 600 jobs, and subsequently appeared on the property website Rightmove, with the asking price available on application.

A report published today by the House of Commons’ Science, Innovation and Technology Committee calls for the facility to be used for bacteria-killing viruses - called phages for short - that can provide an alternative to antibiotics that are attracting growing resistance.

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Tory MP Greg Clark, chair of the Committee, said the appearance of the laboratory on Rightmove had been to the “astonishment of the science and health communities” and it should not be “lost to the nation and to science in a firesale”.

According to a report in The Times, when the laboratory opened it was described by the UK Government as a “state-of-the-art facility” that marked “an investment in our scientific capabilities for the future”.

The UKHSA also said its existence meant Britain would be able to “respond quickly and at greater scale to deal with pandemics and other future threats”.

The laboratory is now being advertised on Rightmove, with features including nine individual lab “lines”, a facial recognition system, a canteen and meeting areas, and a dedicated logistics area.

Clark said phages offer a possible response to the increasing worldwide concerns about antimicrobial resistance, but development was at an impasse with clinical trials needing new advanced manufacturing plants.

He said: “The Committee is asking the Government to consider whether the mothballed Rosalind Franklin Laboratory in the West Midlands could provide a suitable facility.

“The laboratory, which has already received over £1 billion of public funding, was established by the Government to bring to an end the inadequacy of testing capacity that so hampered the national response to Covid.

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"It consists of modern, secure laboratory facilities and was meant to be an important source of national resilience against future pandemics.

“But the Rosalind Franklin Laboratory has suddenly appeared for sale on the property website Rightmove, to the astonishment of the science and health communities.

“Our committee’s report on phages asks for the Rosalind Franklin Laboratory to be considered for this purpose, rather than be lost to the nation and to science in a firesale.”

A UKHSA spokesperson said: “Options are being explored for the best use of the site going forwards while ensuring the best value for taxpayers’ money and an update will be provided in due course.”