Deltamune, an award-winning private biotech company that produces vaccines for livestock, has cashed in on the export of vaccines to the rest of Africa and the Middle East to fight diseases that are unique to those regions.
In recent years, the Pretoria-based company has grown in size and has expanded its product range thanks to a capital injection from MCEP.
When the company applied for funding to the programme, it had already spent its own funds to buy equipment to “build capacity” in virus antigen production and for freeze-dried vaccines. So, the MCEP support helped the company recoup costs it had already incurred for beefing up its capacity.
“We needed to build capacity in virus antigen production, specifically cell cultures, so most of the equipment was bought for that purpose. We also bought equipment for freeze-dried vaccines, which is part of the virus vaccine range,” explains Dr Hannes Swart, the company’s CEO.
According to Swart, once a virus product has been produced, it has to be stored in a secure facility. “A big portion of the funds were also earmarked for big cooling facilities to store the final product,” he says.
New funding, new machinery
The new equipment, which includes incubators, freezers and various laboratory apparatus, has given Deltamune an opportunity to look at different products and expand its product range.
“Although these machines are fairly small-scale machines, they allow us to make plans [to purchase] bigger machines in the future,” he says.
Established in 1977, Deltamune operates in two major divisions: Test Laboratories and Animal Health Products.
“On the Test Laboratory side, we provide services to more than half the South African poultry industry, the dairy industry and supporting veterinarians in all the other production animal industries.
“We also do extensive food safety testing, not only for animal products but also other food products like yeast and spices to ensure safe food for people.”
On the animal health products side, Swart says, the company is involved in developing various animal vaccines. When the company started, the major focus was on poultry vaccines but in recent years it has expanded to include other species such as cattle, sheep and horses.
“Currently, our major vaccines are supplied locally and we also export our poultry products to South African Development Community countries.”
Deltamune employs 154 permanent staff members, “with a couple on a contract basis”.
In most cases, those taken on a contract basis are students studying bio-technology at technikons or universities.
“Most of the time these people are stars – and when we see stars, we would like to employ stars and they are then offered permanent positions.”
Swart would like to see a large footprint for the company on the continent and in the Middle East, both as a test laboratory and on the vaccine production side.
“Some people may wonder why Africa and the Middle East. It’s basically because there are certain unique diseases occurring in Africa and the Middle East and that is where we see our excellence. We are busy developing products to cater for these diseases,” he says.