COVID-19 kit maker Solgent running at full capacity to meet explosive demand

2020.03.12 14:45:04 | 2020.03.12 14:45:39

A Solgent researcher is pictured to insert a reagent for COVID-19 detection into a container at Solgent’s lab located in Daedeok Techno Valley.이미지 확대

A Solgent researcher is pictured to insert a reagent for COVID-19 detection into a container at Solgent’s lab located in Daedeok Techno Valley.

South Koreans are shunned by more than 100 countries after their infection cases surged to the biggest outside China, but now that COVID-19 infections have reached every part of the world, they are being envied largely for having wowing test capacity that includes drive-thru checkup and results within hours.

Solgent is one name kit developer in Korea in high demand. The company headquartered in Daedeok Techno Valley in the central city of Daejeon is rolling out 3,000 COVID-19 kits per week at its maximum capacity. Its full-year shipments of all types of detection kits had been 3,000.

Orders are pouring in from overseas, and it will take at least three weeks to serve new orders, Solgent’s co-chief executive Yoo Jae-hyung told Maeil Business Newspaper on Tuesday.

More than 90 percent of new contracts for 8,000 COVID-19 kits signed in the recent weeks will go to overseas markets. DiaPlexQ, the company’s COVID-19 detection kit brand, is now sold in 33 countries including China, Southeast Asia, Central Asia and the United States. A massive contract from Europe is expected to be sealed soon given mounting inquiries from Italy, Germany and Britain, Yoo said.

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Solgent’s test kit received emergency use authorization from the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Feb. 27, marking the third EUA case in Korea.

The company began to develop a COVID-19 test kit at the request from its Chinese distributor last December when the virus spread across the continent.

The key to the technology is how quickly a detection target-binding substance that specifically binds to COVID-19 can be identified through RNA amplification. The only problem, however, is the lack of production capacity to cope with exploding demand because most diagnostic kit makers rely on manual processes to produce small batches, Yoo said.

At Solgent, employees manually put a fluorescent marker drug for gene amplification and virus detection in the kit into a small container.

Solgent aims to go public on the Kosdaq in 2022. Revenue came to 6.1 billion won ($5.6 million) last year and the figure is expected to double this year on brisk sales of its COVID-19 kits.

By Kim Byung-ho and Minu Kim

[ⓒ Pulse by Maeil Business Newspaper & mk.co.kr, All rights reserved]