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After the vaccines, the test race is on

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Since the start of the covid pandemic, economic and health soap operas have followed one another. Last year, the spotlight quickly grew tired of the spring quest for protective masks to jump into the vaccine race. The threat of a third wave and the appearance of new variants have now confirmed the strategy of large-scale tests.

To read: The English variant represents nearly 80% of contaminations in Switzerland

But for that, you need testing. Millions of tests. At the Federal Council press conference, the Federal Office of Public Health was reassuring, while admitting that occasional stockouts in some pharmacies could occur. Asked by Time, the Swiss Society of Pharmacists is not aware of any current delivery problems.

Easier authorizations

The last cog in this mechanism, self-tests – the degree of precision of which is debated – are still desired in Switzerland. To date, no such solution has been approved by Swissmedic.

The drug validation authority has just published a directive which provides for a simplified procedure for the authorization of such diagnoses, while seeking to ensure the quality and effectiveness of the solutions chosen. Elsewhere in Europe, countries like Germany have already led the way. To date, around ten companies have approved their products. Among them, Siemens Healthcare Diagnostics, Biosynex and SD Biosensor.

Also read: Covid screening: companies are getting impatient

It is allied to this Korean producer that Roche has validated its solution across the Rhine. The Basel group announced this week that it would file a case in Switzerland. This reassures the authorities because, for the time being, Swissmedic indicates that it has no pending request. “It is difficult for companies, especially Asian companies, to deal with the current situation, decodes Philippe Etter, expert within the consulting company Medidee. Each European country has different criteria and interpretation, which makes it difficult for them. “

A market dominated by Asians

During the spread of the new coronavirus in Switzerland, several local players, including hospital laboratories, have embarked on this niche. In French-speaking Switzerland, the Vaud firm Quotient and the Valais tandem formed by Augurix and the start-up Gadia have made a name for themselves.

Read about it: Biotech Romande is emerging in serological tests

In the canton of Bern, a company was even born out of the crisis to target this market. It should be noted that it comes from another company already benefiting from European certification. Normally, obtaining this essential sesame can take from twelve to eighteen months.

For home testing, simplified procedures have been introduced in several countries. “Be careful,” warns Philippe Etter, “that does not mean that anyone will be able to engage in this activity. Over the months, Swissmedic has increased the barriers to avoid having poor quality tests. ” The federal authority has already established a list of 25 companies who have been given the green light for their rapid tests for professional use. Candidates for home testing solutions are in principle in this group, according to certification expert Philippe Etter.

Ambush rock

Only one company of Swiss origin, Willi Fox, is included. Korean and Chinese players are largely dominant, like Roche’s partner. How to explain that so few Swiss companies are interested in it? “It is not an easy market because it is very volatile, observes Philippe Etter. If the company has good production networks in China or India, it can be an interesting business, but it has to be done very quickly. In Switzerland, this could be attractive for a medium-sized company. ”

Without articulating any figures at this stage, the Basel giant told us that it considers itself well positioned to deliver large quantities of nasal tests in Switzerland. The Rhine group invested 600 million francs last year to expand its portfolio of diagnostic solutions.

Read also: The mad race for Roche diagnostics

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