Covid test a game-changer for Irish diagnostics group

Hibergene is producing 6,000 test kits a week, and this could be ramped up to 45,000

Hibergene CEO Seamus Gorman: 'Coronavirus was unexpected, and our decision to pursue a test was opportunistic to some extent'.

Hibergene CEO Seamus Gorman: 'Coronavirus was unexpected, and our decision to pursue a test was opportunistic to some extent'.

 

Developing a test that can confirm in 30 minutes or less whether a patient has Covid-19 is a game-changer for Hibergene, a small Dublin diagnostics business.

The company’s most recent results, for 2018, show it was still making losses as it expanded its range of tests for highly infectious conditions like meningitis and influenza, sexually-transmitted disease and hospital-acquired infections.

At the time raising money for further development was the priority, not entering a highly competitive field of companies chasing a solution for a virus that might or might not be a long-term market opportunity.

When the company’s Chinese connections first approached it in January in search of a test, Hibergene was already actively involved in a planned fundraising.

Coronavirus was unexpected, and our decision to pursue a test was opportunistic to some extent,” says Seamus Gorman, who has been with the company since 2015 and was made chief executive last month.

In fact, the company’s focus for this year was elsewhere entirely, It was looking to develop fully-automated versions of its existing test kits to address the smart consumables market– allowing patients to give samples and receive results even in their local GP’s office rather than relying on a lab process.

It still is, and hopes to advance that project in the second half of the year.

But for now Covid-19 is the priority. Hibergene is producing 6,000 test kits a week. It can ramp that up to 45,000, though Gorman is reluctant to commit until he gets feedback on market demand for the product.

The emphasis, at least initially, will be Europe, the Middle East and Asia.

Gorman and his team also have an eye on the lucrative US market. Under Food and Drug Administration (FDA) rules that would require a local partner, but with the number of coronavirus patients still rising steeply it represents a signal opportunity for the business – both for sales and to establish its name in the world’s largest healthcare market.

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