It was not difficult to say goodbye to 2021, another challenging year due to the COVID-19 pandemic where our human and professional capacities were overstretched and tested to the maximum, and yet another year in which our department reached new milestones in our diagnostic services. We received 28,318 patients in our testing centers and our outreach teams conducted visits in schools and nursing homes and carried 74,229 tests for SARS-CoV-2 RT-PCR. We also continued to be at the forefront of public health actions, with our LuxMicroBiobank receiving 42,840 SARS-CoV-2 positive samples from all partner laboratories and our national genomic surveillance programme reaching a new milestone by sequencing 24,367 samples in 2021 with 52 weekly updates of our ReViLux newsletter, 5 epidemiological reports and 16 scientific publications in peer-review journals.
As we reflect on 2021, we have to praise Luxembourg’s health system, which enabled us to deliver on all fronts, and appreciate the great support we get from our partners, be they major hospitals: Centre Hospitalier de Luxembourg (CHL), Centre Hospitalier du Nord (CHdN), Hôpitaux Robert Schuman (HRS), and Centre Hospitalier Emile Mayrisch (CHEM), or the private laboratories: Bionext, KettertThill, and Laboratoire reunis; our partners had contributed massively to the success of our national programmes in delivering excellent patient care and informing public health action. What I have felt since my early days at the LNS is the huge potential of building one of the best elite health care systems worldwide by capitalising on excellent interaction between key players in the health sector in Luxembourg. Last year showed us that the success in our fight against COVID-19 at national level, well-orchestrated by the national health authorities, is sustainable and could be a driver for a long-term national health system project.
Our department is ready to sail through 2022 with ambitions and exciting projects. Thus, we needed to approach the new projects with a different project management mindset. Therefore, we have launched a series of AGILE training courses to become one of the pioneers of diagnostic laboratories in microbiology worldwide in adopting Agile values. By offering the AGILE courses to all staff, we aim to prioritise effective teamwork and interaction to deliver our services in close collaboration with our partners and stakeholders. I believe that our best asset is people and hence we will launch the “More than a JOB”-initiative to focus on our team’s well-being and capitalise on the new mindset of the DREAM team concept that we created in 2021. With a Dedicated, Respectful team that redefines Excellence and Appreciates individual contribution in delivering Microbiology service, our DREAM team will operate with a new project management approach.
In 2022 – We continue with our mission
We were recently awarded a capacity building grant of 4.8 million euros from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) that will enable us to expand our state-of-the-art Genomic and Molecular Microbiology unit (LUX-GEMM), establish our dedicated Microbial biobank (LuxMicroBiobank), and revamp our IT framework by launching our Paperless lab project, which will dramatically improve our analytical workflows and reporting systems. These infrastructures will enable us to develop further our projects, especially in the field of antimicrobial resistance, food-borne pathogens, and blood-borne viruses
In research, we have been involved in 14 research projects both national (e.g., CLEAR study and COVALUX consortium) and international (e.g., END-VOC consortium). Evidence-based medicine is our reference to improve our practice and the newly formed Research and innovation team has been involved in setting up a new methodology and acquiring new technology in our laboratories. We have recently implemented the Nanopore technology for long-read sequencing, which will be our first line sequencing technology for public health intervention as it provides a fast and robust method with a potential turnaround time of 48h from sample reception.
In international collaboration, we consolidated our collaboration with ECDC as we positioned our department as a recognised European training centre for influenza and COVID-19 diagnostics for the next 4 years. We were also a major player in the pilot stage of the WHO BioHub initiative, with Luxembourg being the first country to contribute to the Biohub, and the first country to benefit from its biorepository. We also worked closely with new international partners in Guinea and Saudi Arabia to provide knowledge transfer and share our expertise worldwide.
In teaching, the LNS will play a major role in the medical microbiology module delivered for second-year students in medical school at the University of Luxembourg. The curriculum, developed by a group of national experts in Microbiology, will be delivered from March to May this year for the first time and our department will contribute to both lectures and practical sessions.
We are thrilled to share our MicroNews first issue in 2022, we hope that you will enjoy reading it as much as we enjoyed its production process. We cherish your partnership in making the difference together.