Pharmaceutical & medical

Analytics in exceptional circumstances

Many companies are finding themselves in an exceptional situation due to the coronavirus crisis. The employees of the laboratory and analytic technology manufacturer Analytik Jena have been doubly affected: Their normal work routine has been significantly restricted due to remote working and contact reduction, while at the same time production requirements have drastically increased. Product managers Christine Marion Gräfe and Melanie Kelm describe how the company is playing its part during the crisis.

Analytik Jena supplies laboratories around the globe; what has changed for you in light of the coronavirus crisis?

Gräfe: The main point is that the demand for our products at Analytik Jena has changed. The number of requests and orders for certain devices has grown tremendously due to the increase in tests being carried out in laboratories.

Where exactly does the challenge lie for you? Have you had to modify your instruments due to the new virus?

Gräfe: No, we have been working with nucleic acid extraction for several years and have several clients who work in-depth with our instruments in terms of both genomic DNA and viral or bacterial DNA or RNA. From an analytical point of view the coronavirus is ultimately an RNA virus like any other. Analytik Jena offers devices that support and automate the virus detection workflow. And the mode of operation hasn’t changed much for laboratories that carried out flu tests, for instance. Kelm: In relation to the new virus I think the


challenges are more on the assay manufacturer side. They have to guarantee that their chemistry – in other words the standardised reaction process – works on devices such as ours. Our colleagues in China quickly determined external suppliers’ corresponding detection assays in a proof-of- principle process at the start of the crisis, for instance. Joint experiments were carried out as quickly as possible to determine settings that ensured the chemicals and instruments were compatible. The challenge is now down to the sheer number of tests. The number has increased so drastically, as has the demand for reagents and our products, that it has caused bottlenecks along front areas of the supply chain.

Can you give an example?

Gräfe: Examples include the alcohol required for extraction. Alcohol is also used to manufacture disinfectant and is currently in short supply. Supplies of the salts required to produce buffers for these reagents are also scarce, so that makes it difficult not only for us

Gräfe: The number of orders we are receiving has increased tenfold. For some this number is not quite as high, but for others it is even higher. It became evident as early as January that the demand for instruments was set to vastly increase with the demand from China. But it didn’t really take off until the end of February. You should know that all of our

June 2020 Instrumentation Monthly

as manufacturers but also for suppliers worldwide to meet demand.

How have you coped with this?

Gräfe: There are major advantages to being part of a large network in the current situation. We identified the global supply bottlenecks for substances used to manufacture kits relatively early on. With the help of the Endress+Hauser

network we were able to gain new suppliers to be able to continue production.

And what is the situation like with producing laboratory instruments and extraction kits?

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