Michael Hsu, Managing Director of Birmingham Biotech, details how the company’s unique business model has facilitated the development, manufacturing, and distribution of cutting-edge COVID-19 testing and healthcare technologies to provide quick and much-needed solutions during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The pandemic has changed the face of healthcare for the foreseeable future. As well as the speed and successful development of vaccines, COVID-19 testing has also played a vital role, offering an extra line of defence against infectious diseases. Birmingham Biotech is a UK-based company dedicated to developing and distributing cutting-edge technologies for testing and diagnostics, hospital and laboratory construction, medical equipment manufacturing, and more. Health Europa spoke to the company’s Managing Director, Michael Hsu, to discuss how the company has risen to the challenge of meeting the increased market demand for solutions to help protect and prevent the spread of viral infections, including COVID-19.
How did Birmingham Biotech come to be established, and what are your key goals as
Birmingham Biotech was established in 2020. We recently launched a partnership with the University of Birmingham to accelerate the research to clinic translation of healthcare innovations and quickly enable access to our products around the world via our established ecosystem of industry manufacturers and distributors. Our products are designed and developed to address areas of high unmet need and include COVID-19 testing kits, diagnostic test kits, medical equipment, and mobile hospitals.
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a healthcare revolution, owing to the urgent need to develop products and deliver solutions to patients and the public faster than ever before. Our COVID-19 testing kits are being exported to emerging markets in medium to low-income countries, lacking healthcare infrastructure. We aim to bring healthcare to patients where health systems are stretched, and access to medicines is poor.
Have you encountered any particular challenges in being able to develop or upscale these products to meet this increasing demand?
There was a huge surge in demand as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and an urgent need to develop effective products in a short time frame. All our products go through stringent regulatory and approval processes before reaching the market, which inevitably takes time. Demand is higher than ever, and therefore we have built our business model on three distinct pillars – R&D, manufacturing, and markets. Essentially, this enables us to speed up the whole process from product development to delivery.
Our latest innovation, an anti-viral nasal spray, was engineered by Professor Liam Grover from the University of Birmingham’s Healthcare Technologies Institute and a team of researchers who also collaborated on its testing.
Our collaborative approach and expanding network of partners worldwide means we can react quickly to demand and manufacture products locally for faster distribution.
What kind of institutions or companies are acquiring the COVID-19 testing products?
We supply our COVID-19 testing products to large enterprises around the world, including governments. We receive many enquiries from business leaders looking to safeguard their workforce and provide extra protection from COVID-19 or adhere to new governmental guidance on regular COVID-19 testing, for example.
You recently signed a licensing agreement to commercialise a novel anti-viral nasal spray that protects against COVID-19. Can you tell me about the anti-viral spray and how it works? How do you foresee this product being distributed?
Our anti-viral nasal spray is designed to work by encapsulating and deactivating the virus while it is still in the nose, preventing its wider uptake by the body. It has just two active ingredients – a polysaccharide gel that coats and retains the virus, so it does not travel further down the respiratory tract and a potent anti-viral compound called carrageenan to deactivate the virus. These compounds are already approved by regulatory bodies in the UK, Europe and the US and are widely used in medical devices, medicines, and food products.
Crucially, our anti-viral nasal spray has improved spray ability and retention for better surface coverage in the nasal cavity (six times more than other nasal sprays) due to a more viscous formulation.
In the future, working together with the University of Birmingham, we plan to co-develop other innovative products and technologies, such as COVID-19 throat sprays and nasal sprays targeted to protect individuals from other viruses, including the new Omicron variant. The anti-viral nasal spray is expected to be available in the UK and Asia in early 2022.
How do you anticipate Birmingham Biotech evolving in the future? Are there new products or plans in the pipeline?
Following the launch of the anti-viral nasal spray, we plan to use our formula to develop additional, effective anti-viral products that enable people to carry out their daily lives with reduced risk of becoming infected or passing on viruses to others.
Through our established ecosystem of partners and distributors, we will continue to deliver innovative health technologies and respond quickly to future emergencies.
Our vision is to bring the latest innovations in diagnostics to developing markets at affordable prices, making healthcare as accessible as possible to those who need it most.