In 2010, science entrepreneur Giedre Brandao wanted to set up a business. It became a reality that year. With just £600 to launch in vitro diagnostics research company AbBaltis, location was key.
For Giedre, Kent has proved to be the perfect location to set up a business, playing an instrumental part in the growth of an award-winning company enjoying success both in the UK and overseas.
“I started as a small start up with £600 of investment from my own pocket,” Giedre recalls, modestly adding, “we grew significantly over the years.”
Expansion plans in 2019
That’s an understatement. In just five years AbBaltis has gone from a 100 sq. ft lab at Kent Science Park (KSP), with just Giedre at the helm, to a 1,000 sq. ft. unit and a team of 10 with more to come in 2019.
“We’re growing rapidly and looking to move into new premises this year,” says Giedre, now AbBaltis’ Managing Director. “We’ve outgrown our current building and, with help from Kent Science Park, we’ve identified new space that we will be looking to refurbish.”
“This expansion will give us 2,500 sq. ft. of space. We’re also looking to employ an additional five people this year.”
Supporting the fight against disease
If you’ve ever gone to a doctor and had your blood drawn and magically the doctor reveals your diagnosis from the sample, there’s a whole industry behind it, called in-vitro diagnostics. AbBaltis operate in this space.
“You can tell a lot about the state of health of someone from a small sample. You can tell if they have allergies, autoimmune diseases, infectious diseases and so on and so forth,” explains Giedre.
“This is the industry we operate in. We supply researchers who develop medical diagnostic test kits in their labs with disease state plasma and residual clinical samples so they can develop better diagnostic test kits.”
UK Queen’s Award winner
Today AbBaltis export to countries such as China, Hong Kong, Argentina, the United States and across the European Union, success recognised in 2015 with a Queen’s Award for International Trade.
Their scientists have become the go-to for researchers developing test kits for emerging diseases, including the Zika virus. AbBaltis played a key role in combatting its world-wide spread, providing customers with vital positive disease state plasma.
“What I realised before setting up AbBaltis was that scientists need reagents much faster than other companies could deliver,” said Giedre. “That was the focus of the company, which enabled us to grow very fast and expand worldwide.”
Kent instrumental to success
“Our success is not only down to our own efforts serving our customers, but also due to the network of organisations here in Kent that support businesses, such as Locate in Kent and Kent County Council,” Giedre says.
“Kent has been a great location for our business. We’re an hour away from London and just a couple of hours from Paris and other major European cities. There are also a number of high-ranking universities in the area.
“When I started my career, I remember how difficult it was to get a job in science. I was fortunate to start an internship with Genzyme in the US. This led to my successful career in the bio-technology sector as a scientist and moving on to start my own company.
“What’s really important,” Giedre adds, “is to have an ecosystem of suppliers and customers as well as a trained workforce to come and support the growth of the company.
“If you think about Kent, we have Discovery Park, Kent Science Park, Canterbury Christ Church University. We all work together to bring the best ideas to the market and move them forward.
“We’re lucky to have a cluster of life science businesses here, which helps to propel innovation. The future looks very exciting to life sciences in Kent.
“I think there are tremendous opportunities for new businesses here in Kent. There are so many ideas coming out of universities and there’s a huge need for faster diagnostics and better medicine to improve our healthcare needs. Kent is a fantastic place for such opportunities.”