This German biotech company has developed coronavirus test kits with 4 million tests since the outbreak began
TIB Molbiol Syntheselabor GmbH is a technology company you probably never heard of. Since 1990, Tib Molbiol, a Berlin, Germany-based biotech company that has developed tests for ailments ranging from swine flu to SARS. The company has been providing custom synthesis of oligonucleotides to a growing number of customers worldwide. Its products are used in the fields of life science research, medical diagnostics, product quality assessment and environmental analysis. Dr. Olfert Landt is the founder of TIB MOLBIOL. He has been providing custom oligonucleotides to a growing number of customers worldwide. He has graduated from Freie Universität Berlin, Germany.
When coronavirus started in Whuan China late last year, Dr. Landt watched the news reports of a strange disease spreading in China. He sensed an opportunity and decided something has to be done to quickly find a way to detect the virus before it got worse. “Dr. Olfert spent the next few days quizzing virologists at Berlin’s Charité hospital and scouring the internet for more information on what soon became known as the novel coronavirus, and by Jan. 10 he’d introduced a viable test kit,” according to a Bloomberg reporter who first shared the success story.
His phone hasn’t stopped ringing since. “Everyone here is putting in 12- to 14-hour shifts,” Dr. Landt says. “We’re nearing our limit.” In the past two months alone, Dr. Landt and his team have produced 40,000 coronavirus diagnostic kits, enough for about 4 million individual tests. Tib Molbiol, known to be one of the first suppliers of synthetic DNA in Europe, “has reoriented its business toward coronavirus, running its machines through the night and on weekends to make the kits, which sell for about €160 ($180) apiece.”
Now orders are beginning to pour in from around the world including the World Health Organization, national health authorities, and laboratories in some 60 countries. Tib Molbiol’s revenue in February tripled from the same month in 2019.
TIB, which last year generated €18 million in sales, is one of about a score of test-kit producers worldwide. Companies such as LGC Biosearch Technologies in Britain, Spain’s CerTest Biotec, and Seoul-based Seegene Inc. are seeing an explosion in demand as authorities seek to slow the virus’s spread. South Korea has tested more than 210,000 people and Italy more than 60,000. Efforts in the U.S. got off to a rocky start when a diagnostic tool from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention proved to be flawed. The U.S. has since changed the test and taken steps to expand availability, but the CDC has warned kits won’t be ready in the numbers promised by the Trump administration.
In 1998 Boehringer Mannheim (now Roche) introduced the LightCycler® Real-Time PCR Instrument. Based on the novel detection format of HybProbes and an innovative thermal cycling technology, the instrument revolutionized Real-Time PCR not only by speeding up the process but also by the versatility of possible experimental applications. TIB Molbiol embraced the new chemistry of HybProbes and embarked with Boehringer Mannheim in a mutual effort to increase the application scope and attractiveness of the instrument.