Export breakthrough by Ballyclare diagnostics company

A new diagnostic kit developed by Linnodee Diagnostics in Ballyclare has secured its first export business from an Invest Northern Ireland trade mission to India.

Linnodee is supplying the kit for the detection of Leptospirosis in humans to a customer in The Philippines. The company, based at Avondale Business Park in Ballyclare, developed the user-friendly and cost-effective test kit, known as Leptorapide, to detect the condition, a major public health concern, particularly in sub-tropical and tropical regions.

The company used the recent Invest NI mission to India to launch the kit at Leptocon 2009, a major conference organised by the International Leptospirosis Society in Cochin.

Linnodee, a sister company of Giltspur Scientific, a market leader in veterinary products such as Cowslips and Horseslips, was approached at the conference by HBI Diagnostika of Quezon City in The Philippines which placed an initial order for the new kit. In addition, several Indian companies expressed interest in buying the kits.

Dr Ernest Logan, founder and director of Linnodee and Giltspur Scientific, says: “We were immensely encouraged by the response the new kit, our first human diagnostic product, received at this very important conference”.

“We benefited substantially from the validation of Leptorapide by the highly influential Regional Medical Research Centre at Port Blair on India’s Andaman Islands. The evaluation of Leptorapide against other competing products, funded by the World Health Organisation’s South East Regional Office, found that it was the most effective”.

“This validation provides us with an important marketing edge for the product, which we developed to provide an easy and cost-sensitive means to help in identifying a potentially serious disease that is often difficult to diagnose. Our test is ideal for areas with limited resources in terms of medical knowledge and funding as it doesn’t require sophisticated laboratory equipment or skilled staff”.

“Leptorapide is a simple and highly accurate test that produces a result in three minutes. Leptospirosis, which often results from exposure to water contaminated with the urine of infected animals, can be difficult to spot because the symptoms often resemble other conditions. Many people die as a result of misdiagnosis, or diagnosis being made too late”.

The test, which was developed in collaboration with experts of the OIE Leptospiral Reference Laboratory, Belfast and with the support of Invest NI, has been extensively validated by a number of important international health institutes such as the prominent Communicable Diseases Centre, Atlanta, the Zoonoses Centre, Brazil, Mahidol University in Thailand, and the Instituto Superiore di Sanita, Italy.

“Invest NI’s support in developing and marketing the kit has been immensely important. The mission gave us the support we needed to present it at the conference in India and to meet potential representatives in a market that could be extremely important for us,” he adds.

Tracy Meharg, Invest NI Managing Director of Innovation and Capability, says: “Linnodee’s success is a further example of how a company can use one of our missions to attend a sector specific event offering a substantial marketing opportunity. Our mission programme is extremely flexible and designed to enable companies to grasp marketing opportunities that could result in new export business.

“Our Mumbai-based staff are also now helping Linnodee to identify potential partners in India and thereby assist the company to bring this innovative product to market as quickly as practicable. Feedback indicates that there is a significant business opportunity for the diagnostic product particularly in markets such as India, Thailand, The Philippines and Indonesia.”