Lockdown Gives Labs, Suppliers Time To Innovate And Refocus

While clinical and medical labs are operating at full capacity due to the Covid-19 pandemic, many other labs and analytics facilities stakeholders have had an opportunity to slow down, innovate and strategise during lockdown.

This is according to exhibitors set to participate in analytica Lab Africa 2021, South Africa’s only trade show for the laboratory technology, analysis, biotechnology and diagnostics industries.

Delphine Darling, Business Development Director at Lasec, says media reports indicate that medical labs are not coping with the surge in demand for Covid-19 testing, on top of the challenge of backlogs in the supply of certain materials and equipment to Africa. However, she notes: “Laboratories now have a chance to review how they do things in order to strengthen their infrastructure, not only for Covid-19 but also for the future.”

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Darryl Harris, General Manager at Shimadzu South Africa, says it has been business as usual for pharmaceutical labs and business unusual for clinical and medical labs, but that many others saw a slowdown in operations during the lockdown. This has given them an opportunity to refocus, strategise and innovate, he says. “We ourselves have used the opportunity to reorganise and restructure our operations to become more supportive,” he says.

However, certain challenges remain. “Regulatory bodies have been slow to enforce quality controls, and South Africa is still battling a skills shortage in the industry,” he says. “To help address the skills shortage, Shimadzu is in the process of installing a R30 million innovation centre at UJ.”

New market opportunity

 “A new opportunity emerging as a result of the pandemic is the growing demand for on‐site Covid‐19 testing. Darling says: “Many companies are taking it upon themselves to do their own testing and setting up laboratories from scratch. However, setting up on‐site testing facilities from scratch can be expensive and the level of technical expertise needed to effectively run the molecular workflows required to produce accurate results, is sometimes not considered.”

Lasec is moving to address this need by offering the full solution including the furniture, equipment such as biological safety cabinets and PCR machines as well as the consumables and reagents. “We also provide training on the correct use of equipment with recommendations of key items required for the workflow.

 “We provide recommendations of key items required for the workflow and also provide training on the correct use of the equipment. Companies may however choose to help existing laboratories boost their capabilities by sponsoring additional resources,” she says.

Another analytica Lab Africa exhibitor who has been quick to address this growing need is Eins-Sci, an international firm specialising in laboratory equipment. Eins-Sci Director Bradley Rautenbach says the company has pioneered the release of an all-in-one laboratory equipment solution to help hospitals, enterprises and new testing facilities roll out full in-house testing capabilities quickly and easily. “Organisations with thousands of employees, health care groups and public sector facilities may need to invest in new laboratory equipment as the demand for COVID-19 testing rises around the country,” he says. “Additionally, due to the increase of tests, institutions may face challenges in storing and transporting samples to testing labs, leading to delays in positive and negative results. With internal testing laboratories, depending on the skill level of the laboratory technicians, they will be able to reduce potential delays and get results in a matter of hours,” he says.

Eins-Sci is working closely with the managing director Gideon Burger from their distributor Axiology Labs who is spear heading the operation of a total of 36 x COVID-19 Laboratory Setups so far. This is a significant feat in increasing the testing capacity in South Africa.

Suzette Scheepers, Chief Executive Officer of analytica Lab Africa organisers Messe Muenchen South Africa, says innovation is a key focus of analytica Lab Africa. “This exhibition and forum showcases the latest technologies and methods to help local stakeholders operate more effectively and competitively. Now more than ever before, it is important for the sector to harness the advanced new technologies available to help them work smarter,” she says.

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