Friday, 18 February 2011

New substance abuse testing laboratory opens

Trimega Laboratories, the substance abuse testing company, has opened a new lab in Manchester, UK, which will assist the government with its forensic toxicology workload in the wake of the closure of the Forensic Science Service (FSS).

Trimega Laboratories has invested £1 million in the state-of-the-art, 1,900 square-foot laboratory, which is located in the Hexagon Tower in Manchester.

The impact of the FSS’ closure was highlighted this month when it was revealed that the police had been told to refrigerate samples from drink driving suspects due to a lack of resources to process them.

Trimega’s new facility includes world-class substance abuse testing technology. The company specialises in hair testing, a ten year old technology that can detect longer patterns of alcohol and drug consumption than traditional blood and urine methods, which only register consumption of the previous few days for drug analysis.

One of the key applications of hair testing is the protection of children from parents and guardians with alcohol and drug dependencies. There is an estimated 20,000 hair alcohol and drug tests requested in UK child custody cases each year.

The Forensic Science Service considers the ‘Gold Standard’ for reliable drug detection to be laboratory based gas chromatography combined with mass spectrometry (GC/MS), a test that is possible on hair. Trimega’s new laboratory uses the latest mass spectrometry techniques to accurately determine drug usage to very small detectable levels including High Performance Liquid Chromatography tandem mass spectrometry (HPLC/MS/MS) and the gas chromatographic equivalent (GC/MS/MS). These techniques are often referred to as the ‘Platinum Standard’ when compared with traditional GC/MS analysis.

Much of the FSS’ specialist toxicology work was sent to France and took weeks to complete. Trimega’s technology and its location in the UK enable it to complete toxicology analysis in as little as 2-10 days, thereby reducing the time to provide evidence in criminal cases.

Avi Lasarow, CEO of Trimega Laboratories, said: “The closure of the FSS opens up opportunities for private companies in the forensic toxicology sector and we are delighted to launch our own high-tech laboratory in Manchester to help the government manage its workload of cases. Getting analysis done by the private sector faster than before will not only help reduce crime but also save the government considerable sums in unnecessary costs incurred by court timetable delays.”

Trimega currently employs 42 people, with 10 based at the Hexagon Tower. The company plans to hire a further 10 staff this year in Manchester.

The lab includes a suite from where Trimega will provide complimentary training for solicitors, barristers and police officers who wish to learn more about the technicalities of hair testing within the legal process both for family and criminal law.

Sir Richard Leese, Leader of Manchester City Council, officially opened Trimega’s new laboratory on 18 February at an event that was also attended by the High Commissioner of South Africa in the UK, Dr. Zola Skweyiya, and the renowned global experts on hair testing technology, Professor Fritz Pragst and Dr. Hans Sachs, former President of the Society of Hair Testing (SOHT) and a leading expert in this field whose expertise has been called on for many high profile legal matters, including the Harold Shipman case.

Trimega has developed a range of innovative techniques for testing substances of abuse. Its core business is laboratory-based analysis of hair samples that provides accurate historical records of any alcohol or drugs dependency over a one to 12 month period. In the UK its clients include: family law specialists, social services, regulatory bodies, and professional nursing and pilot organisations. Trimega also works with courts directly.

Other services offered by Trimega Laboratories include: Roadside Drugalyzer Testing for law enforcement, Hair Steroid Testing for athletes, and most recently, Hair Benzodiazepines Testing. Trimega is ISO 14001 certified for environmental management and is also an Investor In People. Trimega Laboratories won the title of Best Use of Technology in the 2008 Barclays-sponsored Startups Awards and has been on the shortlist for the National Business Awards three years running. It was also one of 25 companies to represent the UK in the 2010 European Business Awards.

Trimega was also responsible for the creation of a Hair Strand Scientific Advisory Board. Its purpose is to analyse the fast growing database of information created from the 10,000 hair alcohol tests and 7,000 hair drug tests carried out in the UK each year, of which Trimega is responsible for around 40 per cent. The findings of the Board are shared with the Society of Hair Testing (SoHT) which, as a peer review organisation, will assist it in future decisions – particularly those relating to the setting of universal standards/guidelines.

The Board consists of: Dr Hans Sachs - past President of the SoHT and the lead scientist in the Harold Shipman case; Professor Fritz Pragst - award-winning forensic toxicologist and founding father of Hair Alcohol Testing; and Dr Silke Suese - member of SoHT and Laboratory Director of Trimega Drogencheck GmbH laboratory.

Trimega Laboratories