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US scientist to take over as head of Covid-19 lab

Cornell University graduate Pradeep Ambrose, centre, with David Burt, the Premier, and Carika Weldon, now the former director of the Molecular Diagnostics and Research Laboratory (File photograph)

A US scientist who helped the island in its fight against the Delta wave of the coronavirus will be the new head of the Molecular Diagnostic and Research Laboratory, the Government announced last night.

Pradeep Ambrose, a virologist, will replace Carika Weldon, a British-trained Bermudian scientist who quit the post yesterday.

A health ministry spokeswoman said Dr Ambrose would become “the primary scientist for MDL as part of a directorship transition”.

She added: “Dr Ambrose, who previously used his scientific expertise to work at MDL during the Delta outbreak, will provide technical guidance to the team, assist in calling in results and will determine when variant typing and viral sequencing should occur.”

The Cabinet Office said that the Bermuda Health Council would continue to give support to the lab.

David Burt, the Premier, said: “The MDL, a national asset since the start of the pandemic, has established a legacy as a community laboratory that grows innovative scientific ideas and it will continue to thrive well into the future.”

Operational support to the lab will be provided by David Rogers, the BHeC project manager for health technology and innovation, and Andresa Bashir, a public health analyst at the Central Government Laboratory, from today.

The spokeswoman said: “In addition to their existing responsibilities, they will support procurement of supplies, staff concerns, staff training and progress towards the laboratory’s full accreditation.”

Dr Weldon said after she handed in her resignation that her advice to the Government had been ignored during the build-up to the latest outbreak.

She said she had warned against children returning to school for the new term at the start of the month, which required 5,400 tests for Covid-19 to be turned around in a matter of days while her lab was short-staffed.

A massive backlog built up as Dr Weldon had predicted.

Dr Ambrose, from New York, agreed to pause his RNA research at the Rockefeller University’s virology and infectious diseases lab to work for MDL.

Ricky Brathwaite, the CEO of the BHeC, said: “MDL has a fantastic team that has produced a great volume of results during the many stages of this pandemic.

“These are dedicated technicians and scientists in the making that have led Bermuda through very tough times and pressure-packed situations.”

He added: “Mr Rogers, Ms Bashir and Dr Ambrose will continue this work with the MDL team to ensure the goals of the lab in respect to Covid continue to be successfully managed and met.”

Michael Dunkley, the shadow health minister, said the One Bermuda Alliance wanted to thank Dr Weldon for the hard work put in by her and her team.

Mr Dunkley added: “With the sudden resignation of Dr. Weldon, coupled with changes to testing procedures such as use of antigen testing and government's assertion that we must live with Covid, it is important that Premier Burt lay out the ongoing responsibilities of MDL, how the lab is being funded and what revenue it receives.

“Bermuda is well aware of the invaluable contribution of MDL, but very little has been relayed publicly about revenue and expenses and the budget for its operation going forward.”

Mr Dunkley said: “We wish Dr. Ambrose all the best in his new role”.

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Published February 01, 2022 at 7:57 am (Updated February 01, 2022 at 2:26 pm)

US scientist to take over as head of Covid-19 lab

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