PHUSA Biochem: Joint Effort to Respond to Covid-19

10:05:18 AM | 30/9/2020

The business community, including PHUSA Biochem Co., Ltd, has joined forces with the whole country to contain the Covid-19 pandemic since its outbreak in early 2020.

Working together to deal with Covid-19

On January 20, 2020, Mr. Hoang Quoc Cuong, Director of the Pasteur Institute of Ho Chi Minh City, contacted and requested PHUSA Biochem company for emergency supply of WHO’s E-Sarcobe test kit to conduct diagnostic tests on the first two suspected novel coronavirus infection cases in Vietnam, hospitalized at Cho Ray Hospital, because Vietnam did not receive this product from WHO at that time. With this kit, Cho Ray Hospital promptly detected the first two infections.

At about 7:30 p.m. on January 22, 2020 (28th day of the 12th lunar month), Mr. Ngo Anh Tin, Director of the Can Tho Department of Science and Technology, announced that he had received a phone call from Dr. Hoang Quoc Cuong to ask for a company capable of quickly manufacturing coronavirus test kits, based on WHO kit. This was a special science and technology research program from the department, used for an emergency situation and deployed in just three months. After having carefully considered, Mr. Tin decided to invite Pasteur Institute at Ho Chi Minh City and PHUSA Biochem to join the research program. With its long history and knowledge in technology, PHUSA Biochem is unique as a company specialized in molecular biology in Vietnam with many recognized achievements. Since then, PHUSA Biochem along with the Science and Technology Center (managed by the Can Tho Department of Science and Technology) had launched the project in February 2020. Closely supervised by experts, in June 2020, the research project was achieved and rated excellent by a specialist council and effectively served for the supply of biomolecules for quick detection of novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV2).

Vietnam Academy of Science and Technology regularly uses PHUSA products, especially oligos, and is satisfied with the quality, price, delivery and responsibility of the company. On quality, most PHUSA oligos successfully work for PCR the first time. On price, they are relatively cheap (IDT is usually 1-1.5 times more expensive). The company’s delivery is fast, usually after three days from the date of the order, the products are delivered (compared to 1-3 weeks if ordered from IDT in Vietnam). If any technical problem occurred, the company quickly handled it for customers with a very high responsibility and valuable support. Its PCR cyclers are suitable for small-scale research and service facilities which do not require advanced technology.

Dr. Nguyen Hai Ha - Vietnam Academy of Science and Technology (VAST)

Along with the department-level research project, PHUSA Biochem also asked Mr. Truong Hoang Phuong, Deputy Director of the Can Tho Department of Science and Technology, and Dr. Nguyen Huu Thanh from An Giang University, for support to propose a ministry-level research project to the Ministry of Science and Technology to deploy a Covid-19 pandemic screening system using the company's existing technology platforms such as PCR, SPOTCHECK and bio-diagnostic assay. With the research project, the Ministry of Science and Technology assigned the task of producing the SPOTCHECK PCR rapid detection system to detect the SARS-CoV-2 strain (including 20 test devices with 20,000 test kits). On September 15, PhuSa Biochem together with the ministry presented four SPOTCHECK PCR systems and 1,200 test kits to the Ministry of Health for Covid prevention. The company’s SPOTCHECK PCR systems and kits marked an important milestone of Vietnam's science and technology - completely creating technology, equipment and biological products from domestic supplies.

PhuSa Biochem’s SARS-CoV2 test systems feature an 80% localization rate, likely to be 95% in the coming time. Thus, the company can control the product cost and run mass production lines by itself. Working well in the climatic conditions in Vietnam, PHUSA Biochem’s test kits are designed to withstand ambient temperatures, no refrigeration system is needed for transportation, storage and handling. The lightweight apparatus is designed for use in fieldwork and powered by a 12V adapter. Most importantly, given mass epidemic screening, there will be shortage in real-time PCR machines and PHUSA Biochem’s SPOTCHECK PCR systems will make use of existing PCR machines in Vietnam for the screening program.

The combination of 1 SPOTCHECK machine and four 96-well PCR cyclers, 480 samples can be processed every 3 hours and 1,920 samples in every 12 hours. The cost for this set-up is around VND200 million. Meanwhile, four real-time PCR cyclers with the same capacity cost VND7.2 billion.

Mastering science and technology

At present, the application of molecular biology in diagnostics had been heavily developed worldwide, but Vietnam still has to depend on imported equipment and biological products. Desiring to address this reliance and following the government policy on Technology 4.0 Program, PHUSA Biochem had spent timeless efforts from 2017 to 2020 to develop a PCR cycler and SPOTCHECK system for scientific research application and molecular diagnosis. In addition to this system, PHUSA Biochem had also successfully produced biological products such as primers, probes and EZ-Mix made from domestic supplies.

PHUSA Biochem owns five U.S. patents relating to primers synthesis, the products had been exported to many world-leading primer producers like Sigma -Aldrich (US), Eurogentec (Europe), BGI (China), T4 Oligo (Mexico) and Biontech (Germany).

PHUSA Biochem’s products have very competitive prices. The delivery is quick. The website for placing purchase orders is simple, convenient and easy to manage the orders. Customer care and after-sale services are perfect. The company really supports and meets what our research team needs.

Ass. Prof. of Biotechnology Tran Van Hieu - University of Natural Sciences, Vietnam National University of Ho Chi Minh City

According to Mr. Nam, the Oligo market in the world is worth some US$2 billion/ year, engaged by about 50 major companies and many smaller producers. With 12 years of working experience in the primers field, PHUSA Biochem has making plan to be in the World Top 50 Oligo suppliers in the near future. In recent years, the company has focused on expanding the domestic market but still faced certain obstacles, mainly due to customers’ preference to foreign brands. The price of PHUSA Biochem’s products is two-thirds of U.S. competitors because they are made locally with lower production and shipping costs.

In addition to bio-products, since 2018, PHUSA Biochem has successfully produced PCR cyclers and electrophoresis machines with Vietnamese technology, featured with good quality and reasonable price, they are highly appreciated by scientists. These products are also exported to some countries, particularly Mexico.

After 12 years of operation, PHUSA Biochem has affirmed as a science and technology company, and successfully realized the policy on “Vietnamese technology for Vietnamese biology”, and the principle “Know-how, technology mastering and product quality make customer confidence”.

Entrepreneur Ngo Quoc Nam: Bringing Know-how to Enrich Hometown

Entrepreneur Ngo Quoc Nam, Director of PhuSa Biochem, was born in 1957 in Vietnam. In 1974, he went to study in France, and graduated with a master’s degree in organic synthesis and molecular biology from the Conservatoire national des arts et métiers (CNAM). After more than 20 years of studying and working in France, he was invited to work in the United States by Affymetrix Company (the first biochip maker in the world). After five years working with Affymetrix, he founded CTGen Company that provided products for the biotechnology industry for more than 10 years. He had thought that he would have a good life and a good working environment in the United States, but he gradually decided to redirect his life after his return to his hometown in 2005.

In 2008, he returned to Vietnam to “make something for his homeland” with his five patents of chemical technology and molecular biology being his most valuable assets. He established PHUSA Biochem, whose name implied that it would become a new technology incubator and foster innovations in scientific research and application for young scientists in Vietnam. He invested US$1 million for PHUSA Biochem, making it offshore producer for CTGen to manufacture synthetic substrates for oligonucleotides in the solid phase synthesis and supplier for Oligo synthetic companies in the world such as Sigma (U.S.) and Eurogentec (EU).

When he started the business in Vietnam, apart from basic construction, he directly trained each specialist group in the narrow array of genetic engineering and also taught other skills in professional activity.

Currently, PHUSA Biochem is headquartered in Ninh Kieu District (Can Tho City), which is considered the “brain” of training, research, know-how transfer and business management. The company also has facilities at the Application Center subordinated to the Can Tho Department of Science and Technology to manufacture ISO13485-standard kits and machines.

Source: Vietnam Business Forum