COPAN Diagnostics Hits the 5 Million Mark on COVID-19 Sample Collection Transport Media Shipped From New Carlsbad Facility

October 22, 2020  |  Carlsbad, CA

The COVID-19 pandemic has had quite the impact on COPAN Diagnostics, Inc. On Tuesday, the 5 millionth UTM® (Universal Transport Medium) was shipped off from the company’s new manufacturing facility in Carlsbad, CA, ready to play an integral part in the battle against this deadly virus.

“Everybody feels great about this ramped up production because we’re doing something for healthcare that can make a difference,” said Norman Sharples, COPAN Diagnostics CEO. “We know that every device that goes out of the building is being put to use right away, it’s not sitting on a shelf.”

That ramped up production Sharples referenced became a reality thanks to the addition of a new 38,000-square-foot facility nestled in a Carlsbad business park. The expansive space has given COPAN the power to drastically boost UTM® production in the United States — from a former capacity of several thousand test kits per week to more than 840,000 a week — all within just a few months.

“This pandemic brought back the importance of the collection device and we’ve made a huge effort to produce these kits to help increase the number of tests available,” Sharples said.

The FDA-cleared transport systems are shipped to hospitals, reference labs, and other urgent point-of-care sites to collect specimens from patients being tested for the SARS-CoV-2 virus. COPAN’s UTM® remains the leader in the collection, transport, preservation and long-term freeze storage of clinical specimens containing viruses, such as SARS-CoV-2. The transport medium is packaged in a plastic, screw cap tube and maintains organism viability for 48 hours at room or refrigerated temperature.

With a goal to hit 1 million a week, Sharples is excited that the company he has headed for the past 26 years is close to hitting that ambitious target.

“COPAN has been through pandemics,” said the long-time CEO. “But other pandemics, such as the H1N1 pandemic, don’t even come close to the demand for sample collection that we’re seeing with COVID-19.”

When SARS-CoV-2 first reared its head, it quickly became obvious that COPAN needed to ramp up UTM® production capacity. Although the company’s Italian headquarters began producing and shipping the kits seven days a week, substantial demand for testing put an unprecedented burden on medical professionals, laboratory staff, and supply chains. COPAN decided to add additional manufacturing capabilities to serve the healthcare needs

Without enough space in its Murrieta facility, and after an unsuccessful search for another site in the Temecula Valley area, COPAN set its sights on Carlsbad, since it’s well known as a life sciences hub.

After signing the lease in early June, they finished the interior and locked down all the permits and inspections within an unprecedented 26 days. The City of Carlsbad was a key player in this fast track business plan, with employees working remotely to help COPAN secure all the necessary approvals in record time. “The City of Carlsbad was very, very collaborative,” Sharples said. “They were having to work remotely and electronically in these very unusual circumstances. They did this with great speed and we’re really thankful for the City of Carlsbad.”

COPAN staffers, which already hit 125 at the Carlsbad facility, gathered together this week to celebrate the recent 5 million milestone. Outfitted in their patriotic attire — one even sporting an American flag mask — Sharples and Marketing Director Gabriela Franco cut into a stars and stripes cake to mark COPAN’s contribution to the fight against coronavirus. 

We’re making a product that’s making a difference,” Sharples said.

And that’s definitely a reason to celebrate.


UTM® Sample Collection Transport for COVID-19 Viral Testing

UTM® is suitable for collection transport and maintenance for COVID-19 specimens. COPAN has compiled a COVID-19 resource page to facilitate answers to some of the frequently asked questions being received. Here you’ll find easy access to the evolving regulatory guidelines published by the CDC and FDA, COPAN’s distributor part numbers, and other resources about critical products that can be used for collecting, handling, and transporting specimens suspected of COVID-19.

About COPAN

With a reputation for innovation, COPAN is the leading manufacturer of collection and transport systems in the world.  COPAN’s collaborative approach to pre-analytics has resulted in Flocked Swabs, ESwab™, UTM® Universal Transport Medium, and laboratory automation, WASP® and WASPLab®.  COPAN carries a range of microbial sampling products, inoculation loops, and pipettes.  For more information, visit www.copanusa.com.