Diabetic diagnostics firm opens new facility

Christchurch based biotechnology company, Canterbury Scientific is opening its new $1.2 million premises at Addington today.

The occasion will also deliver Wayne Mapp, Minister for Science and Innovation a profile-building opportunity when he officiates at the opening.

Canterbury Scientific develops quality controls for haematology and clinical biochemistry tests. The company was founded in 1985 by scientists Professor Robin Carrell, Dr Maurice Owen and Dr David Williamson.

They manufacture freeze-dried and ready-to-use liquid controls for haematology and biochemistry diagnostic tests used for monitoring blood tests and calibrating equipment In Vitro Diagnostic analysers.

One of the main applications is for monitoring blood tests in diabetic management.The company sells all of its products to international medical customers overseas and sales of haemoglobin HbA1c controls have escalated recently.

Canterbury Scientific estimates it has almost 40% of the US market and at least 10% of the European market in these products. The company employs 12 full time staff plus contractors and earns its $3 million revenue from 100% export sales.

New contracts are being signed and sales are predicted to increase to $5 million by 2013. Haemaglobin, the red pigment of blood, deteriorates on exposure to air within hours at room temperature. But the haemoglobin A1c control (HbA1c) uses technology that allows blood samples to be stored and used under ordinary lab conditions for months.

More than 7% of the world’s population is affected by diabetes (more than 200,000 people are diagnosed with diabetes in New Zealand), and WHO predicts that diabetes will rise by epidemic proportions within 20 years.

The directors of Canterbury Scientific believe there is likely to be increasing reliance on Canterbury Scientific’s HbA1c controls in coming years.Canterbury Scientific says it is the only company to make haemoglobin A1c control in a test tube by in vitro glycation instead of using blood from diabetics whose glucose levels are not well controlled.

This also avoids ethical issues. The procedure also enables Canterbury Scientific to produce large batches.

As diagnostic technology advances, more doctors and diabetics will be able to conduct monitoring tests themselves instead of waiting on clinical laboratories for results.

Dr Neil Pattinson, the chief executive of Canterbury Scientific said the company has close relations with the University of Otago Christchurch School of Medicine and Health Sciences.

To support growth potential the company puts aside 20% of its profits to new research, summer studentships and grants, in addition to its own internal R&D commitment.

The new laboratory at Whiteleigh Avenue was refurbished to incorporate sophisticated control systems, including temperature and humidity control.