While 2020 was probably not the best time to be celebrating, with social distancing forcing people apart, it still marked the 15th anniversary of Promega Biotech Ibérica in Spain, and the company has much to be proud of. The milestone also came at a time of heightened appreciation for the biotechnology sector. “It is a shame we could not celebrate together as the anniversary deserves, but the time will come,” said Managing Director Gijs Jan Jochems.
Promega Biotech Ibérica was incorporated in 2005 as the seventh subsidiary of the North American Promega Corp. and has already achieved much, with more than 4,000 references, USD50 million invested in R&D, and 600 patents. It all began with a small commercial team providing the best service possible to scientists and researchers in the public and private sectors through the supply of reagents and instruments and other scientific support to advance lines of research.
But there have also been times when everything has not turned out so well. “It is a beautiful adventure, but it is not without its ups and downs. As we have grown, we have specialized and increased the staff. The 2008 crisis had a brutal impact on the financing of R&D in Spain, with us losing almost half of our public funds in 2013. This had a notable impact on our results and we had to look for new markets. In the end, we came out stronger and with greater customer diversification,” continued Jochems.
And the firm’s commitment to R&D is what has kept it at the cutting edge. Indeed, 10% of annual profits are reinvested in R&D activities carried out at the recently opened Kornberg Center. Here, the focus is very much on cellular and molecular biology, genetic identity, and clinical diagnosis.
Great advances at the service of society
Promiga also believes strongly in technology transfer and allowing new innovations to reach wider society and generate wealth and jobs. “Universities play a fundamental role in preparing their students for professional opportunities beyond academic research, and companies like ours can play a relevant role,” explains Jochems, who adds that, “we have three years collaborating with the UAM in Madrid in its postgraduate program and last year, with the Barcelona Science Park through its BATX2LAB program, aimed at high school students interested in pursuing a STEM career. There is still a long way to go to popularize science.” Even so, the work of Promega Biotech Ibérica to transfer all this knowledge to society in the form of solutions to problems is worthy of admiration.
30 years providing light
This year marks the 30th anniversary of the first use of firefly luciferase as a disruptive tool in molecular biology. Today, assays based on Promega’s NanoLuc® platform are considered indispensable tools in biomedical and pharmaceutical research due to their versatility, small size, and high luminescent capacity.
The current luciferase NanoLuc® is a small monomeric enzyme of only 171 amino acids, which is naturally produced by a small shrimp and called oplophorus gracilirostris and which shows a high light intensity that allows innumerable applications, among which the studies of interactions stand out, and of proteins in cells at physiologically relevant levels, the discovery of new drugs through the study of the interaction of compounds with their target protein in living cells, protein degradation, and gene editing by CRISPR or studies on cell metabolism.
“The recent COVID-19 pandemic has represented an unprecedented social challenge in the current century, highlighting our business model’s ability to respond to the widespread concern about the global availability of reagents for conducting the necessary tests.”
Throughout 2020, Promega has supplied enough reagents to perform 800 million PCR tests, and has developed its own Lumit„¢ Dx SARS-CoV-2 immunoassay as a qualitative in-vitro diagnostic test to detect antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 in serum quickly and with the confidence that the CE-IVD marking offers.
As Promega Corporation CEO Bill Linton said, “we are celebrating our first 15 years in Spain and we are analyzing what older companies have done to learn from their models, because that is our goal.” And it is that the future belongs to the optimists and those who look to tomorrow with enthusiasm and a wanting to make the world a better place. For this reason, we must applaud a company that aspires to be part of the solution to all the health problems that threaten us, either through increasingly effective diagnoses, as with new personalized treatments, or, potentially, through gene therapy.