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Certus Team

Certus Diagnostics AG

This biotech company develops rapid tests for the detection of pathogens. The tests produced by Certus Diagnostics AG are used for quality control on cell cultures and to identify pathogens in animals, and there are tests for humans in the pipeline. The ability to identify a pathogen in 30 minutes enables the correct and appropriate treatment to be chosen, the two founders of the young company, medical doctor Samuel Zürcher and biologist Alexander Lüthi, firmly believe.

Why are rapid tests so important?

At present pathogens are detected in laboratory tests. This method is certainly reliable but it takes at least two days, which means that a lot of time is lost which could otherwise be used to initiate effective and potentially life-saving treatment. If, as is the case with our rapid test, we know after just 30 minutes which pathogen we need to treat, then we can take a completely different course of action: benefiting the health of the individual, acting to prevent an epidemic, or providing rapid diagnostics at neuralgic points such as airports.

How did you come up with the idea of developing rapid tests?

When my business partner and I worked in infection diagnostics we discovered that there were no reliable rapid tests for infectious diseases. In our search for a solution we invented a gene copying machine that copies genes from a specific pathogen, for example influenza, multiplies them, and makes them visible. Our method is therefore based on genes, or more precisely on the four building blocks of gene DNA, which can be used to detect any living organism, including bacteria, viruses, fungi, parasites, etc.

How reliable is your test method?

We were able to compare our methods with 300 laboratory samples with very good results, which confirmed the reliability of our test method.

You have already won awards such as the De Vigier Award for your invention. How has that benefited Certus Diagnostics AG?

Firstly, it is wonderful to receive recognition for our work by winning the award. And secondly, it has enabled us to access networks where we can exchange information with other young companies and established businesses. We are benefiting enormously from this qualified network.

Has the ecosystem in the Canton of Bern been of benefit to you?

My partner and I come from a university background, so we are researchers rather than entrepreneurs. The coaching we received from the innovation promotion agency be-advanced was a very useful introduction to running a business. It is great that the entrepreneurial spirit is encouraged here. But more generally, we can see potential for establishing the culture of entrepreneurship even more firmly in Switzerland.

Where do you see Certus Diagnostics in seven years’ time?

We currently offer rapid tests that can be used as quality controls for cell cultures in laboratories and for on-site detection of infectious diseases in animals. We aim to be established in the market in these business segments by 2026. And in the best case scenario, we will have successfully completed all the steps in the authorization process for the rapid test in humans and will have already entered the market.

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