Randox Laboratories in Co Antrim is recruiting 200 new staff, including 160 mechanical, electrical and manufacturing engineers as it ramps up Covid-19 testing, Business Telegraph can reveal.
The engineers, who will start at the Randox Science Park in Massereene later this month, will work on the fast-track development of specialist molecular analysers used to detect the presence of Covid-19.
It wants to build 200 testing platforms over the next six weeks to boost the UK government's national testing scheme for key workers, as well as to carry out testing across the population.
The company is now filling roles across science, manufacturing and engineering.
Dr Peter FitzGerald, managing director of Randox Laboratories, said the firm's priority was to help the UK effort to test at scale.
"We know that this is the most effective way to both save lives and promote a timely return to a more normal society," he said.
"We continue to ramp up our Covid-19 testing capabilities - not only by increasing our production of testing kits, but also by accelerating the build schedule for the testing analysers.
"We are aiming, by working at maximum efficiency in a greatly accelerated time frame of six to seven weeks, to manufacture 200 of our most state-of-the-art testing platforms, which will greatly enhance our testing capacity."
Randox is one of the biggest biotech firms in Northern Ireland. At the start of April it announced it had stopped selling its coronavirus home-testing kits directly to the public due to its role in helping the UK Government with testing.
That UK-wide arrangement had also hindered it from supplying directly to Northern Ireland, Health Minister Robin Swann said last month. However, the company said tests have now been made directly available within Northern Ireland.
But yesterday it said it still does not have capacity to sell tests to the public. "At present we can register interest for when additional capacity becomes available. Until then we're not in a position to accept new orders," it stated.
"The national testing programme is our absolute priority."
Dr FitzGerald said the company had redeployed some of its own personnel to Covid-19 departments to meet the demand.
It has also set up new teams for the development, manufacturing and distribution of testing kits for the national testing programme.
Dr FitzGerald said: "Everyone at Randox has a vital role to play in the practical application of Covid-19 testing, and for engineers in particular, this is a unique opportunity to make a positive impact in the fight against Covid-19, by directly contributing in no small part to the national testing programme."
Now it's keen to speak to anyone with experience in mechanical, electrical or manufacturing engineering, and said it is working with economic development agency Invest NI to find potential candidates.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock had set a target of 100,000 coronavirus tests a day - which was reached last week but included 40,000 tests which had been sent out to people's homes but had not necessarily been taken. Randox is one of a number of companies in the testing programme.
But it said it hoped to have more tests available for wider consumption. "As additional capacity becomes available then we will aim to provide Covid-19 testing more broadly, and will advise accordingly," the company said.
Randox employs around 1,400 people.