The liquid in the flask is like water, but its value is like gold.
– Yes and more. The sales value of such can be hundreds of thousands of kroner, says Olav Lanes (49) and holds the flask.
For more than 30 years, researchers associated with Arcticzymes have worked on controlling enzymes. The past few years have been an adventure. The Tromso-listed company created billions of value for shareholders – and became a deer.
– In this reactor, we grow microorganisms in a controlled manner. A week later, we harvest it, says Olaf Lannis, who is now head of research and development at Arcticzymes.
He holds a PhD in Molecular Biology.
stock market rocket
The company is one of the biggest gainers in the stock market in the last two years. In the last year alone, the price rose 1,000 per cent after Swedish investors opened their eyes to Tromsø. The market capitalization is NOK 4.5 billion, or over NOK 100 million per employee.
Enzymes are used in research, diagnosis and production of pharmaceutical products.
One milligram can give a million reactions. Lanz says these reactions are selling.
Soon after the company changed its strategy and implanted enzymes, a pandemic struck. It was a great opportunity for Arctic Enzymes, who were involved in delivering enzymes for a new generation of polymerase chain reaction assays. The company offers so-called life science companies, which have seen a strong recovery during the pandemic with resell to clinics and research institutions.
It started with cod
Olaf Lanes himself participated in the collection of genetic material that is now central to corona testing.
– Cod enzyme comes from, I used to hunt with my dad.
The goal was to secure genetic material from tissues in the cod liver.
– We put it on liquid nitrogen and brought it back to the university. There we succeeded in isolating the gene that gave us the recipe for making the cod enzyme. It was necessary to be able to produce the enzyme on a commercial scale later.
The researcher collaborated with bacteria to grow enzymes that they had spent years researching to secure. The natural enzymes now live in the lab.
– Today we use biotechnology to copy it, otherwise it would have been impossible. We’d be on our knees with just the beating, Lanz says.
Since leaving college 26 years ago, Lanz has spent most of his career controlling enzymes essential to driving chemical processes in the body and all of life.
For a number of years, Arcticzymes have been involved in the diagnosis. When the epidemic broke out, the cod enzyme became more important than he could have imagined.
Researchers immediately began identifying the virus to make the test accurate.
To develop a new PCR test, you must know the type of virus strain, and then modify the tests. Some tests work on all viruses, and are about getting an overview of what viruses they can take.
In the wake of the pandemic, virus research is very relevant. It also opens up opportunities to commercialize many years of basic research on viruses.
We should be able to say that this market has exploded. In the next ten years, there will be more interest in this topic. The challenges don’t stop here. There will always be a new potential pandemic.
Inside viruses, research still contains many black holes, referred to as dark matter in biology.
– Now we’ve really seen what could happen. We’ve been waiting a few decades for a new Spanish flu to appear.
choose the way
The biotech company from Tromso has in recent years undergone a major cleanup that has had an impact on both shareholders and the bottom line. Last year, a number of deficit years turned into profits of NOK 42 million.
– During the past two years, we have achieved tremendous growth, and we have changed the course of the company. In the past, we’ve had red numbers for 20 years. Everything we lost is now out of the company, says CFO Borg Sorfoll.
Previously, the company was called Biotec Pharmacon and the main product was beta-glucan for medicinal products.
For several years, the development was very promising, but then a negative phase III study of diabetes years was very disappointing.
However, for several years, beta-glucans were the ones running the business. Woulgan wound ointment and beta-glucan area were sold and continued by Lallemand.
We spent 20 years developing it. Wound ointment was on the market. It was difficult for a small company in the North to take it internationally. Something bigger was needed.
The sale gave $85 million in cash and a chance to get back where you started: the enzymes.
Enzymes have been a hidden gem. Sørvoll says the strategy we decided on was very well received in the market.
From being dependent on one product and one big customer, Arcticzymes now has 300 clients around the world.
The biotech company still enjoys close ties to the local university community. Lanes often collaborates with former colleagues on the project basis.
Today, scientists are no longer dependent on pulling cod from the sea. Sequence data on enzymes are collected in large databases, and such sequences can be purchased online for a few thousand dollars.
Huge gains can still be made by sourcing new enzymes, and investors have realized.
Within one year, the number of shareholders increased from 2,000 to 5,000.
The researcher himself did not become rich with the technology he participated in developing. His own share is 186,000 crowns.
– I have some shares, but no more than 2,000. Lanz says it must have been a bit of a poor return.(Terms)Copyright Dagens Næringsliv AS and/or our suppliers. We would like you to share our cases using a link that leads directly to our pages. All or part of the Content may not be copied or otherwise used with written permission or as permitted by law. For additional terms look here.
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