Fredericton company gets federal contract to supply COVID-19 test chemicals for country
LuminUltra Technologies ramping up production to provide enough chemicals for 500,000 tests per week
A New Brunswick company has signed a contract with the federal government to provide enough COVID-19 test chemicals for the country, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced on Wednesday.
Fredericton-based LuminUltra Technologies Ltd. is "ramping up production … to meet the weekly demand in all provinces," Trudeau told reporters during his daily update on Canada's response to the pandemic.
LuminUltra will provide enough chemicals for 500,000 tests per week for the next year, chairman and CEO Pat Whalen told CBC News.
"Everybody is very pleased and proud about having the opportunity to make this kind of difference," he said of the company's 75 employees.
"We are essentially providing one test for every Canadian as a crucial step towards defeating the pandemic, protecting Canadians and alleviating the human cost of this disease."'
Provinces have faced COVID-19 testing backlogs due to a shortage of supplies, including the chemical reagents required to complete the tests.
LuminUltra immediately responded to the Prime Minister's call to action March 20 to join in the fight against the virus by refocusing its efforts to develop the chemicals needed, said Whalen.
Given LuminUltra's expertise in developing rapid-results biological testing primarily for environmental applications, such as water, it was a natural extension for the company, he said.
But it still took weeks of working nearly around-the-clock days with Public Health Agency of Canada officials, said Whalen, describing it as an "exciting, very fast moving … interesting time."
Shipment of the chemicals has already started, he said.
The Public Health Agency of Canada will decide each week how the chemicals will be distributed among the labs across the country.
Setting up 2nd site and hiring
Whalen declined to discuss any other details of the contract.
Asked whether it's the biggest one the company has ever had, he replied, "It would be up there, yeah."
In order to boost production to meet the terms of the agreement, the company, headquartered on King Street, is setting up a second location in the city, said Whalen.
It will be in an existing structure on the north side on Royal Road, he said, declining to divulge the exact location "because the plans are still coming together."
I think this is an example of New Brunswick innovation and New Brunswick companies coming forward and [being] heard and seen across the country and the influence they can have nationally.- Premier Blaine Higgs
The company also plans to hire 10 to 15 employees, including production staff and commercial roles.
"It's kind of a smorgasborg in different positions that we're currently advertising for."
Premier Blaine Higgs called the news of LuminUltra's contract "encouraging."
"It may be very symptomatic of what other capabilities may be hidden throughout our province that others can come forward and do similar things in other areas," he told reporters during the COVID-19 briefing in Fredericton on Wednesday.
"So I just commend them. I think this is an example of New Brunswick innovation and New Brunswick companies coming forward and [being] heard and seen across the country and the influence they can have nationally."
LuminUltra, in business for about 25 years, has dozens of Fortune 500 customers, sales in over 80 countries and operations in six countries.
It largely does microbe testing for municipalities and industrial customers, including pulp and paper mills and oil refineries.