Automation enables growth

Customer experiences

Fast, easy to use, reliable, cost-effective. Those are the characteristics of a virus test developed by Abacus Diagnostica Oy, specialised in the molecular diagnostics of infectious diseases. Abacus responds to the exponentially increased need for covid-19 testing with automation realised by Kaptas.

Abacus Diagnostica, established in 2004, is a spin-off company of the University of Turku. The company is specialised in DNA and RNA tests of infectious diseases. GenomEra® CDX test system commercialised by Abacus consists of single-use test chips, analyser and software interpreting the test results.

– Whether the patient has bowel, respiratory tract or skin infection symptoms, everyone should have the right to receive reliable test results fast. Correct and fast diagnosis is a precondition for correct treatment and stopping the chain of infection. Delays can lead to a human tragedy – or like we have seen also in the covid-19 case, unprecedented economic losses, summarises Abacus CEO Erno Sundberg the mission of the company.

“In order to be able to improve production effectiveness and capacity, automation was seen as the right solution”

According to Sundberg, year 2020 and the covid-19 pandemic “turned the diagnostics industry upside down”. Abacus was agile and reacted fast. A couple of weeks after the outbreak of the pandemic, the company already held two versions of a covid-19 test. In the end of March last year, the company announced to have delivered their customers in Finland and abroad the first tests able to identify SARS-CoV-2 virus.

Production increased tenfold

Abacus received Europe-wide market authorisation, i.e. CE label, in July last year. In Finland, more than half of the laboratories of central hospitals use the Abacus test system. Among the individual export countries, the most significant is Germany. The most remote export location is Hong Kong.

According to Erno Sundberg, the production amount of Abacus test has well increased tenfold in a year. The growth continues, even though the availability of mass testing systems is no longer a problem.

– Instead, there is significantly more demand than supply for tests like Abacus’s that provide the result fast. Furthermore, the need for speed is not only limited to covid-19, but to faster diagnostics of all types of infections.

More automation

Abacus started to solve the growth in customer needs and demand through production investments. The square meters for clean room production of the company will be doubled. The construction will begin in March this year. There is need for space for automated production lines currently being constructed by Kaptas.

– So far, production has been realised with separate devices, partially also with manual working stages. In order to be able to improve production effectiveness and capacity, automation was seen as the right solution, tells Sundberg.

In their automation needs, it was natural for Abacus to turn to the Turku unit of Kaptas.

– A well-known, reliable local actor, with which we had become familiar already in different networks. It is also excellent that the experienced and capable people in Turku can add customer-oriented thinking in the automation solution – added value that we did not even realise to ask in the first place. Fast delivery schedule has also been an asset.

Competitive and international

For a company in the bio field such as Abacus, Turku region is an excellent home base. The bio field directly employs in the region ca. 4,000 people.

– In the case of Abacus, similarly as in other cases, utilising automation does not take away jobs, on the contrary. In April last year, the company had 10 employees. Now they have close to 30 people on the payroll. Recruitments are continued this year, tells Sundberg.

The critical mass of knowledge that is important for a start-up company is also strengthened by the approximately one thousand experts in bio field in the Universities of Turku and Åbo Akademi.  There are numerous medicine and diagnostics companies in the region, with Orion and Bayer as the main motors. Top companies in diagnostics include PerkinElmer / Wallac and Radiometer.

– Pharmaceutical and diagnostics field is challenging, international and competitive. The time spans in development are extremely long. The way towards economic profitability requires a lot of investments.