At Salofa, health technology is viewed as an infinite source of opportunities, with huge global markets. The rapid tests of this firm, which is seeking its share of global markets, already detect drugs, colon cancer, streptococci, and soon blue-green algae toxins.
Based in Salo, the firm produces infusion tubing and health technology rapid tests. These are mainly intended for use by professionals and the authorities, but the number of rapid tests suitable for consumers is continuously growing. Rapidly obtained test results mean that treatment can begin much more quickly.
– We are moving from the treatment of diseases to preventative health care, points out Salofa’s CEO Juhani Vänskä.
The blue-green algae test gives a result in five minutes.
Urgent need for algae toxin test
Salofa produces tests for colon cancer and drug use, for example.
– We are the only factory in Finland that manufactures drug tests, says Salofa’s plant manager Jarmo Nykänen.
– With our drug test, in under five minutes we can identify twelve different substances that the person has used, he says.
This spring, Salofa also commercialised a product suitable for testing a dog’s vomit. The product was originally developed for police sniffer dogs and is useful for dog owners when they suspect that their pet has been poisoned, or has consumed some other inappropriate substance.
As its latest product, the company is introducing a blue-green algae test developed by VTT and the University of Turku. The test has already been transferred to Salofa’s own, injection-moulded test platform. It will be available from retailers sometime this year, once the final product has undergone sufficient tests.
Ordinary consumers can use the blue-green algae test to check that the water at their beach is free of cyanobacteria toxins. The test detects the most common toxins in water, such as microcystins and nodularins.
– Just a few drops of water are required to make this easy-to-use rapid test work. If two red lines appear on the display, the water contains cyanobacteria toxins. One line means that the water sample is toxin-free, explains VTT Senior Scientist Liisa Hakola.
– There is a huge need around the world to test for algal toxins, among people moving around and living on shorelines. Demand is high enough in the Nordic countries alone, Vänskä believes.
The aim was to make the test as cheap as possible for consumers and have it sold in both pharmacies and supermarkets.
The drug test can identify 12 substances in urine in under five minutes.
Misini Durdica and Auli Paukkeri at the automated assembly line.
One hundred percent domestic
Salofa began manufacturing the products, which had previously been imported from China, Taiwan and Germany, in November 2015. The company believes that it will succeed against the competition based on quality and automation.
– We need automated test assembly to achieve at least the same level of production costs as manual assembly in China. Using the same cassette for different tests makes sense, in order to ensure sufficiently large production volumes and cost benefits from automation, says Vänskä.
– We grew tired of Chinese quality and problems, and decided to start assembling the products ourselves. In production, new ideas are introduced and copied simultaneously, says Thommy Hellberg, Salofa’s Chairman of the Board.
– We already had sales under way and simply moved production to Finland. We make the products here from beginning to end, comments Nykänen.
Hellberg views the blue-green algae test as a good example of fully Finnish production – it is 100% made and assembled in Finland, and marketed from here.
The plant has a dry room, where rapid tests are gathered and packaged. There is also a clean room, where the air is cleaner than in an operating theatre and infusion tubing is the main product made; Salofa has an almost 100% market share in this product in Finland.
– In addition to our own products, we do subcontracting work to make sure that our machines run at full capacity. The bottleneck lies in building unique automated equipment. We’ll use our current machines for the time being, but new equipment is being planned, Hellberg suggests.
Salofa cooperates with other health technology firms in Salo.
– For us, Salo is an ideal location where health technology companies complement each other, Nykänen explains.
– In addition, cooperation with VTT and universities is crucial for us.
Salofa has 12 employees at the moment, but its managers say that the company is under pressure to grow. We will soon open an online store for the sale of consumer products.
– The possibilities are boundless with respect to environmental and health technology – for tests for everything ranging from drinking water to cancers, they suggest.
Thommy Hellberg showing the latest test results to Juhani Vänskä and Jarmo Nykänen.
- Founded in 2013.
- Sector: environmental and health technology.
- The manufacture of products previously bought from China began in Salo in 2015.
- A total of 12 employees so far.
- Salofa’s main owners are Pragmatic and Slangar.
- Turnover of almost a million euros in the first year in operation.
Photos: Suvi Elo