PEOPLE & CULTURE

Amgen Ireland Research Scientist Volunteers to Help Develop New COVID-19 Diagnostic Test

Amgen Executive Vice President for Research and Development David M. Reese, M.D., discussed the company’s efforts to develop a neutralizing antibody to treat or prevent COVID-19 infection during a recent Wall Street Journal “Tech Health” online panel discussion on “The Global Race for a Vaccine and Drug.” Moderated by Wall

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Everyday Heroes: Dr. Conor Fields

Across the world, Amgen colleagues are putting their expertise to use in the fight against COVID-19. One such “everyday hero” is Dr. Conor Fields, a research scientist at Amgen’s facilities in Dún Laoghaire, Ireland. In 2018 Dr. Fields joined the Separation Sciences group in the Quality Control Department. In early April, he volunteered for redeployment to University College Dublin to work in its research laboratories on alternative diagnostic tests for COVID-19.

“Dr. Fields has been a pivotal part of the QC Separation Sciences team in Ireland,” noted his supervisor, quality control manager Ed Renehan. “He has a strong research background and has contributed a wealth of knowledge and technical expertise to our team. All of us are delighted to be able to support Dr. Fields as he joins the global effort to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic. It is a testament to Dr. Fields character and work ethic that he has made this personal sacrifice for the good of his fellow citizens.”

We asked Dr. Fields to share his volunteering experience during this challenging time.

How did you come to be deployed to UCD?   

A former mentor of mine who runs a lab in the UCD School of Chemistry got in touch with me to describe how his research group was responding to the novel coronavirus emergency. He explained that his team was short-staffed because of the pandemic and asked if Amgen might be willing to second me to the University to help with its response efforts. I discussed the idea with my managers, and they immediately agreed to support my short-term secondment to UCD.    

What does your work at UCD involve, and how will it advance the fight against COVID-19?

I and my colleagues at UCD are producing and providing materials for polymerase chain reaction-based molecular diagnostics–or PCR for short–which is used for COVID-19 detection in hospitals. This technique involves testing patient samples for the presence of small amounts of viral genetic material. If virus is present in the samples, the genetic material will be amplified to confirm detection and diagnosis of COVID-19 infection. These tests involve multiple components. Our piece of it at UCD is to develop and validate PCR kits, which can then be supplied to hospitals across Ireland for use in performing thousands of COVID-19 diagnostic tests on staff as well as patients. The test kits allow the hospitals to identify who has been exposed to the pathogen and contracted the disease. As it stands, hospitals can’t source these materials quickly enough to meet the ever-increasing demand for testing as the coronavirus proliferates.

How did Amgen react to your request to take this secondment?

Amgen has been fully supportive of me throughout my secondment. Both my co-workers and my managers have given me a huge amount of support and encouragement. It makes me proud to work for a company that is so willing to redeploy its staff in order to defend the greater good in unprecedented times of crisis such as this one.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to evolve, we are committed to doing everything we can to keep our staff and their families safe, as well as to help the communities where we live and work reduce the number of people exposed to the virus. We are also committed to continuing to deliver an uninterrupted supply of our medicines for the patients who need them. If you are a patient, medical professional, employee, or member of the community, please see our COVID-19 Information Center page.

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