Economy & Politics

Podcast test manufacturer Qiagen: “We produce around the clock”

Employees work in protective suits in a laboratory of the biotech company Qiagen. The biotech company Qiagen is expanding its production capacities for corona tests at its Hilden location near Düsseldorf with financial help from the state of North Rhine-Westphalia.
Employees work in protective suits in a laboratory of the biotech company Qiagen. The biotech company Qiagen is expanding its production capacities for corona tests at its Hilden location near Düsseldorf with financial help from the state of North Rhine-Westphalia.dpa

The manufacturers of tests in use against Covid-19 are currently hardly keeping up with the production: “We produce around the clock,” said Kai te Kaat, head of medical diagnostics at Qiagen in the podcast “Die Stunden Null” (listen directly here) , the company has massively increased capacities.

“In the first wave, Germany had the test capacities under control; they are currently overwhelmed, although they were ramped up,” said te Kaat. One is “in a tsunami wave”. “We no longer know where the virus is, it is practically free in society.”

A new vaccine said at the beginning of the week for hope worldwide – the topic of testing will remain with people for some time. Since the beginning of the crisis, PCR tests have been a central component in the fight against Covid-19. “Testing, testing, testing” has been the mantra since spring. According to data from the Robert Koch Institute, Germany currently carries out around 1.5 million tests per week; in the spring it was 300,000 to 400,000. There have been reports of bottlenecks for some time.

Qiagen develops new products

“When it comes to test capacities, Germany has always been at the top of the world,” said te Kaat. “We could test every person in Germany once a year – maybe even more. What we underestimated is the preparation that we could have made in the summer to get hotspots under control. ”At the moment, laboratories and producers are unable to keep up with the demand, reported te Kaat. Laboratories and test manufacturers would have to develop new strategies.

Qiagen not only ramped up production, but also developed new products. A new technology reduces the consumption of material, especially for pipette tips that are required for PCR tests – instead of ten per test, only three are required. Production is also more flexible. The company, which achieved sales of $ 1.5 billion in 2019 with around 5,200 employees and whose sales are expected to grow by 20 percent this year, is also launching its own rapid antigen test this month. These tests provide results within 15 minutes, but are not considered to be as reliable because they only detect a certain concentration of viruses.

Hear in the new episode of “The Zero Hour”,

  • what rapid tests can – and what not (and why you can learn something from Donald Trump),
  • how long and how much we still have to test in Germany,
  • what Kai te Kaat advises his friends and acquaintances.

All episodes directly from Audio Now, Apple or Spotify or via Google.

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