A Saco company is stepping up production of quality control kits that are vital to making sure coronavirus tests are accurate.

Maine Molecular Quality Controls’ kits are used by laboratories that process tests for coronavirus and other illnesses.

The company has some control kits on the market now and another six will be released in the next few weeks, just in time for an anticipated surge in testing for the virus as states allow more businesses to reopen, said Joan Gordon, Maine Molecular’s president. In many cases, businesses will be required to test employees to make sure they aren’t carrying the virus into newly reopened workplaces.

The company’s kits are used to make sure medical tests are accurate, Gordon said. As an example, Maine Molecular makes control kits for cholesterol tests – samples contain a precise amount of cholesterol and are run through machines to make sure the levels found by the tests are accurate.

“Every test needs a quality control,” she said.

For coronavirus, the quality control kits will use a synthetic version of the virus, Gordon said. Although it can be used to determine if the laboratory tests are accurate, the synthetic version can’t be transmitted to humans, she said.

Business at the Saco company already was booming before the coronavirus pandemic, Gordon said, as medical scientists find more cures for diseases and develop tests to detect them.

Maine Molecular has 38 employees who are continuing to work through the pandemic because their products are critical to medical care, she said. The company wants to hire five more workers, and is interviewing candidates online, she said.

“It’s very difficult hiring during a pandemic,” Gordon said.

The company was founded 20 years ago by Gordon and Clark Rundell, Maine Molecular’s vice president of research. They both worked in labs at Maine Medical Center before founding Maine Molecular.

Gordon said Maine has a small cluster of biotechnology firms involved in the fight against the coronavirus. In addition to Maine Molecular, other companies make test kit components and Abbott Laboratories in Scarborough is producing tests that can determine within 15 minutes if someone is infected with the virus, she said.

Maine Molecular is adding a 37,000-square-foot addition to its building in Saco to help meet growing demand for its products. The Finance Authority of Maine approved state financial backing last week on a $2.2 million loan for the expansion.

Gordon said the work will be completed by fall 2021.


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