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Published 01 Sep 2020
An employee from Roche Diagnostics dedicates his career to develop the most innovative and environmentally-friendly packaging design for reagents.
Although he didn’t realise at the time, sustainable reagents would become Andrew McCaughey’s mission for decades. When he joined Roche Diagnostics in 1994, activities were already underway to create a smarter, more efficient packaging concept for reagents. But there was immense work still to be done.
“In those days every clinical chemistry system that was introduced typically had its own kit containing reagent carriers to perform diagnostic tests. You had up to 50 different reagent kits for each test – our vision was to have one per test. So there was a 50 times mismatch between where we were and where we wanted to be,” says Andrew.
Diagnostic reagents are complex mixtures of biochemicals or chemicals used to generate accurate and precise patient test results. The manufacture of quality reagents at industrial scale is technically demanding.
Customers complained about the amount of waste. “They received a huge box with instructions in 20 languages and all the little bits and pieces that you'd need to put the reagents together and use them. Customers who ordered the same kit every month would just throw a large portion of the kit in the bin. Of course they were dissatisfied,” he says.
With persistence and patience, Andrew and his teammates developed a brand new packaging concept and Roche's first universal reagent kit was launched in 1995. Over the years, the design of the reagent carrier was further optimised. The newer versions were very easy to handle and contained an even large number of tests. In 2018, an even ‘greener’ version of the reagent carrier was introduced, a great career highlight for Andrew.
Packs don't need to be opened manually anymore. Evaporation is avoided by having kits pierced on board. Also, we use less reagent volume per test, thus less reagent kits are needed to perform the same amount of tests. As a result, the amount of plastic used per test is reduced by up to 78%," explains Andrew.
During the evolution of the universal reagent concept, many colleagues were involved and gave suggestions. Andrew fondly looks back on how “I was one of the few people who saw the development almost from the beginning to the end. And here we are, covering this milestone. Until we have the next generation of systems, this reagent kit will stay in the market for the next 20 or 30 years. That is certainly humbling.”
Innovative design has also been applied for reagent kits in immunochemistry testing. Franz Baumann, also involved in the development of the kits, says: “We achieve more with less: more high quality patient results with less plastic, less volume of our sophisticated reagents, less lab space for the instruments with less power consumption - and not to forget - less blood needed from the patients.”
A big team effort and many innovations across different functions like reagent development, instrument development or manufacturing were necessary to achieve this innovative reagent kit for immunochemistry.
It is rewarding to see the great impact our colleagues have had for the customers and for the environment” says Franz.
When we consider that over the next 10 years more and more instruments will be replaced by the newer generation of instruments using the new reagent kits, the total CO2 emission per test caused by production and transportation will be significantly reduced. The emissions per test will be three times lower in 2030 than today, with results in savings of up to 223’000 tons of CO2 emission over the next 10 years because of this design change.This is good news for our planet and future generations.
Peter Saladin, Global Head of Environmental Sustainability at Roche Diagnostics, highlights the impact of our products on the environment: “Energy, waste, water and climate change – in all of these fields, Roche has put a great deal of effort into making its own infrastructure genuinely sustainable. We lead the way in these areas. The universal reagent pack is a great example of how we expand the focus on the sustainability of our products and bring greater value to customers and patients.”