An interview with Aalto Bio CEO Philip Noone
Founded in 1978, Dublin Ireland-based Aalto Bio Reagents is one of the world’s most established biotech companies. Aalto Bio is a market leader in the development of proteins and monoclonal antibodies for diagnosing and treating emerging viruses, including Dengue, Chikungunya, Zika — and the Coronavirus. Aalto Bio is also the leading global provider of high-quality raw materials to the in-vitro diagnostic industry and research laboratories.
We sat down with Aalto Bio CEO, Philip Noone, who shared with us how the company continues to enable its customers to deliver ground-breaking technology to the market faster. Noone also spoke about how having Ireland as a home base has helped Aalto Bio maintain its position as the leading global provider of high-quality and esoteric biological raw materials to the in-vitro diagnostic industry.
Why was Aalto Bio first established?
Aalto Bio was started by recognizing a need for critical raw materials for the diagnostics industry. Obviously, there’s a need for big diagnostic companies to make diagnostic test kits. We are, if you like it, the engine maker for these diagnostic test kits.
We build the engines that go into these diagnostic test kits. Without our engine, none of these tests would function. The four key pillars of our business are the development of Antibodies, Antigens, Plasma, and Biological Specimens.
On a daily basis, we touch tens of thousands of patients because our materials go into these tests, which are commonly used in any hospital or laboratory for disease testing and treatment. The need to diagnose more quickly, and to get a solution faster, to help the patient on the ground, is our driving interest. It’s always been of interest to me the way a disease morphs and moves around the world.
Who are your customers?
We have two main types of customers, the high-tech diagnostic company and the companies who are creating vaccines to treat emerging diseases.
As you can imagine, with any of these diseases, there is a race to find a vaccine. We are very much a business-to-business company, and we are focused on building new disease targets for in vitro diagnostic companies to help diagnose emerging diseases and building new disease targets for pharma/biotech companies that are developing the vaccine to treat the emerging diseases.
Simply stated, we work with organizations that want to diagnose the disease early, and then also with the pharmaceutical companies that want to test and deliver the vaccine.
How has Enterprise Ireland supported Aalto Bio?
Enterprise Ireland has been an excellent support system for us, and we value them greatly as our partner in this journey. We’re a 97% export-based company. We’re based in Ireland, but we export everything, so we need Enterprise Ireland as a partner.
In 2019 we grew by 23%, and most of that growth came from the U.S. market, and a lot of that journey was together with Enterprise Ireland. We’ve now hired our first people on the U.S. West Coast, and that’s only in parts and parcel of working with Enterprise Ireland. They are very much a partner as we would see it on the journey to export and expand.
Have you seen benefits with patients?
We’re a fast-growing company, but we have a social consciousness as well, so I think we definitely look at the patient and the clinical testing of those patients. We aim to build the best material available in the world but also, we want to make sure that the disease is diagnosed in the fastest possible way. The benefit to us is in seeing those finished products on the market using our material that is changing patients’ lives every day. Diagnosing the disease earlier so the patients can be treated faster — that’s our payment for building a good product in the starting phase.
How do you embody the Irish Advantage?
The Irish Advantage is such that we are very innovative people. There is an immense entrepreneurial spirit over here, and I think this country is very good for looking at a problem, finding a solution very quickly for that problem, and then building a product and building a company around it. As a country, we try to look at problem-solving all the time.
When Aalto Bio started, were you expecting to have such a significant impact on patients?
Not really, you never know until you actually make the product and put it out into the market as to how successful it is going to be, but I guess we are impacting a lot of patient diagnosis. We’re covering the whole spectrum of diagnosing the disease earlier, treating the patient earlier and getting a long-term solution to solve these diseases with patients.
Our business is expanding fast we have over 300 products to date. We’re having huge success in the U.S., and I certainly would like to expand into the U.S. more, possibly have a facility over there. We still want to be first in the market for these emerging diseases and move at a speed that no other companies are touching. Currently, we have three new products in development for emerging diseases where there are no vaccines or diagnostic tests at present we want to continue to innovate in this space.