Montgomery Co. company uses ‘building blocks of life’ to diagnose diseases

A cutting-edge global life sciences company that has its United States headquarters in Montgomery County, Maryland, is utilizing the building blocks of life – including DNA, RNA and proteins – in order to advance science and change the way the world diagnoses diseases.

“It is our mission to enable access to valuable insights from molecular research,” said Raymond Blanchard, QIAGEN’s associate director of IP & licensing.

QIAGEN’s products are found in nearly every lab around the globe.

The company serves more than 500,000 customers worldwide, working closely with clinicians, key opinion leaders and pharmaceutical companies to develop tests for infectious diseases, oncology and immune monitoring.

“We started around 1987 on a new chemistry for easily isolating DNA, which has enabled much of the molecular biology and genetics revolution that we’re now benefiting from in terms of genome sequencing, personalized therapies and even fighting COVID 19,” Blanchard said.

QIAGEN fights COVID

QIAGEN has played a significant role in fighting against the coronavirus pandemic.

The company is the world’s largest supplier of kits that can isolate the viral RNA that is used to detect and diagnose COVID.

“We responded early in 2020 by building out increased manufacturing capacity, working with our suppliers and expanding our supply chain to bring in the materials – both the chemicals and the plastics – that are unique to these particular kits,” Blanchard explained.

Later that year, QIAGEN became one of the first companies to introduce the reagents necessary to sequence the entire genome of the SARS-COVID-2 virus so that variant tracking could be initiated.

“That way we and the various public health agencies could understand the difference between the delta and omicron variants that were progressing through different countries around the world,” Blanchard said.

QIAGEN invested in a new type of nucleic acid analysis platform called “QIAcuity” that was launched in the fall of 2020.

“This is a very sensitive instrument that can process samples that start from a very large size,” said Blanchard. “We realized this was ideally suited for wastewater surveillance of COVID-19, so this is one of the instruments that has enabled that.”

Wastewater surveillance is not only useful for monitoring COVID as it can be used to identify and track other viral pathogens that may create public health issues in the future.

Advancing tuberculosis testing

QIAGEN’s work in testing for tuberculosis is the company’s “flagship diagnostic,” according to Blanchard.

Tuberculosis is the world’s leading infectious disease killer, infecting more than 10 million people every year and causing at least one million deaths.

Still, the illness is preventable and curable.

QIAGEN’s “QuantiFERON-TB Gold Plus” is the world’s leading blood test for tuberculosis and is a major scientific leap over the 100-year-old skin test, providing greater accuracy and a more reliable result in a single patient visit.

It is a simple blood test that aids in the detection of the bacteria that causes tuberculosis.

“We were able to take the technology and bring it into the markets of the United States, Europe and other regions of the world for regulatory approval,” said Blanchard.

QIAGEN also created a tuberculosis testing system called “QIAreach” that is portable and can be used in decentralized settings and remote areas.

QIAreach uses the same technology as QuantiFERON-TB Gold Plus.

“It works in resource-limited areas and can be used to identify people who would then need to see a doctor for follow-up,” Blanchard said.

Why choose Montgomery County?

QIAGEN’s choice to build its U.S. headquarters in Germantown in Montgomery County centered around the fact that the county is home to the National Institutes of Health, numerous universities and a long list of life sciences-based research institutions.

“The number of startup companies with great technologies here in Maryland and specifically in the Montgomery County area is a great resource for us,” Blanchard said.

As it has grown, the company has received support from the Montgomery County Economic Development Corporation, a public-private partnership that collaborates with county and state officials to connect businesses to resources, site selection and funding, among other things.

Blanchard said the MCEDC has helped QIAGEN access research and development tax credits and has provided networking assistance between the company and property developers.

In 2020, QIAGEN announced that it would expand its headquarters in Germantown to accommodate production of its testing products for COVID-19 and other diseases.

“We are proud to support the important work that QIAGEN is doing right here in Maryland,” Gov. Larry Hogan said in a statement. “QIAGEN has been growing and adding jobs in our state, and we are excited that they are continuing to invest here.”

To learn more about joining the successful life sciences ecosystem in Montgomery County, connect@thinkmoco.com or go to thinkmoco.com.

Montgomery County Economic Development Corporation (MCEDC): Maryland’s Montgomery County: The Immunology Capital Next to the Nation’s Capital. Home to NIH, FDA, top talent, partnerships and life science success for you.

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