Certest Biotech it is probably the company that best reflects the urgencies of the pandemic. This Aragonese company has just completed a hectic year after the arrival of the covid accelerated its business plans. So much so that The biotechnology firm will have its messenger RNA vaccine manufacturing plant completed in mid-2023, According to the CEO and founding partner of Certest Biotech, Óscar Landeta, who attends this newspaper in the daily whirlwind. “We believe that the plant will be ready by mid-2023 and we estimate that we could start producing vaccines at the end of that year or at the beginning of 2024 », assures the manager.
The intense daily activity at the headquarters of the Aragonese firm, located in San Mateo de Gállego (Zaragoza), has been even more accelerated by the appearance of the omicron variant which has forced the company to redouble its efforts to try to supply a world market that demands more and more antigen test and more tests PCR.
The figures are dizzying. During the past year, the largest manufacturer in Spain produced 24 million PCR tests to detect covid – the same amount as a year ago – while the volume of antigen tests that left the Aragonese plant to the whole world reached 19 million, that is, eight more than in 2020, the year in which the pandemic. Certest Biotech, therefore, manufactures around 400,000 daily units of these products that are distributed by some 130 countries around the world, including Spain. In almost two years, the company has multiplied its production capacity by more than ten, going from manufacturing around 30,000 tests a day to reaching 400,000 units.
The Omicron effect
«The Omicron variant, its rapid spread and the case explosion worldwide demand has reactivated at an international level ”, so the strategic plan of the Aragonese company is now to“ survive ”, says Landeta, alluding to the emergencies that have occurred in the last year. Despite this, the year-end will be “similar” to 2020, the year in which everything changed for Certest Biotech.
In the absence of official year-end data, the company’s estimates suggest that annual turnover will exceed 170 million euros. “The great leap occurred in 2020, although this year has also been very intense,” says Landeta, who does not dare to venture what will happen in 2022.
At the moment, phases 3 and 4 of the Certest expansion project have been completed, so the work has already been delivered where the vaccine R&D center will be located. All this will complete a total area (phases 1, 2, 3 and 4) of 10,000 square meters, to which will have to be added another 16,000 of the vaccine manufacturing plant, which will also have laboratories and a warehouse. All this supposes a investment of approximately 20 million euros, although the firm plans to disburse 100 million in its strategic plan for the next few years.
Certest’s meteoric progression is also reflected in job creation, as The company has gone from having just under 150 jobs before the pandemic to adding 267 at the moment, that is, almost double. And there will be more additions in the coming weeks and months. “With the vaccine of messenger RNA we will have to continue hiring, but I do not know how much, “says Landeta, who emphasizes that everything will depend on the evolution of the pandemic and the commercial agreements that are closed in the future. “Everything goes by spells, outbreaks and scares,” he says. For now, its distributor Palex Medical, markets its products to pharmaceutical cooperatives around the world.
Óscar Landeta finally underlines the «social component» of Certest Biotech, due to the need that hospitals, health centers and citizens have for testing at this time. “We want to meet the demand to face the pandemic,” he says.
A new kit on the market
The Aragonese biotechnology company has just launched on the market a new diagnostic kit called Viasure SARS-CoV-2 Variant III Real Time PCR Detection Kit that allows the virus to be identified, whatever the variant, by means of the PCR technique, which is «a lot more precise and sensitive when it comes to identifying the virus in the patient sample, “says the San Mateo de Gállego-based company. This same week the firm has completed the validation and obtained the CE. Until now, the rapid tests that Certest Biotech has on the market detected SARS-CoV-2, including the omicron variant (in addition to the other already known variants), but did not differentiate between variants. In other words, it gave a result that could be positive or negative, which revealed that a patient had a SARS-CoV-2 infection, which could be any of the known variants.