The COVID-19 pandemic has brought the world to a standstill this year but, at Ingenza, we’ve tried to remain positive throughout and keep spirits high amongst the team. We are pleased to have been able to operate as normally as possible in these difficult times, and also collaborate on an exciting project to develop a potential COVID-19 vaccine. We’ve managed to keep producing excellent results, and we definitely think that’s something worth celebrating!
Adopting and adapting to new safety measures
Lockdown and social distancing restrictions had an immediate and significant impact on our day-to-day activities. Before clear government guidelines were available, we quickly introduced control measures, encouraging people to work from home if possible, adopting new layouts for our workstations, and implementing a strict hygiene policy involving regular cleaning of our work areas and frequent hand washing.
We’ve added face masks to our laboratory PPE, which already included gloves, lab coats and safety glasses. The face mask/safety glasses combo was a challenge at first, as glasses can quickly steam up when wearing both. One of our ingenious colleagues taught us that rubbing dishwashing liquid onto the safety glasses and removing it with tissue paper leaves a thin layer of detergent residue which prevents water from condensing on the glasses. It was a fantastic breakthrough! We’ve also made our own hand sanitiser – the Ingenzitizer! We were looking for ideas during the sanitiser shortage at the start of the pandemic, and discovered the WHO recommended handrub formulation. This recipe uses reagents commonly available in our laboratories, such as ethanol. It’s really cheap to prepare, and incredibly convenient, and we gave out individual, reusable bottles to each member of staff.
New forms of communication
We currently still have a ‘no visitors’ policy to keep our staff in a safe bubble, and have missed being able to welcome collaborators and customers to our facilities for a tour of our laboratories and to get to know us over tea and biscuits. However, we have kept in touch through various video conferencing platforms and, because everyone has their favourite, we’ve learnt to use them all! As a team, we’ve quickly adapted to these new forms of communication by creating quick guides and actively sharing our tips and frustrations. This flexibility has been invaluable to maintain effective communication, and is certainly a key driver in our ongoing success.
Being social while distanced
One thing that has been a struggle with current social distancing measures in place is socialising as a team, and getting to know new staff members outside of a work environment. We are an international team, with a great mix of cultures and interests, and have always enjoyed social events as a company. We’ve tried to come up with creative ideas to keep spirits up, such as a wall where we display lockdown milestones and postponed celebrations, which includes the arrival of three new babies to the Ingenza family! We’ve also hosted a virtual quiz night, and organised a Dungeons and Dragons session, as well as a socially distanced 10 km walk in the Pentland Hills. These are all different from our usual social activities, but were able to bring everyone together – we had great fun!
Thriving in times of uncertainty
We are proud to have been able to keep all our projects going during the pandemic, as well as starting several new ventures, including pursuing the use of engineered yeast to produce the receptor-binding domain of the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein for the development of a cost-effective vaccine. On the whole, despite the current challenges that we are all going through – including distanced working from colleagues, friends, collaborators and customers – we are optimistic about the future, and are incredibly proud of what we have achieved through these difficult times.