Mån 17 jun / År 42 / Nr 1 2024

The Art of Storing Sensitive Material

Ali Ismail is a chemical engineer who became expert at solving problems around the storage and transportation of sensitive material and used this experience as a basis for a new business concept. And so Birka BioStorage saw the light of day.

”Logistics and storage were always bottlenecks and sources of risk of losing sensitive material and project progress. I worked as a process developer at BioInvent and during my eleven years with the company I gained a lot of experience of solving such problems,” says Ali Ismail, founder of Birka BioStorage, and adds:
”In those days (1997-2008) everyone did their own storage and logistics. But after making a thorough needs analysis I concluded that companies needed an external partner that could handle all these issues and in 2008 I decided to leave BioInvent to become that partner. I took a position at BioReliance, to learn more about the market. In 2010, the timing was perfect.”
Being an entrepreneur at heart, he had tried out various enterprises while still in his teens and so this idea was quickly turned into a viable business concept.
”My initial capital covered a rental contract and some equipment, and in July 2010, Birka BioStorage moved into the incubator in Lund and to its current facilities in 2011. It took exactly two years to get the necessary approval. At first, the Medical Products Agency (MPA) didn’t believe in my setup. For one thing they questioned my ability to solve the conflict between the regulatory classifications for storing different types of material in the same facility. But after inspecting my facility they approved the concept without further ado, and Birka BioStorage received its Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) permit.”
He already knew a number of companies interested in testing the concept and they became good references.
”In the following years, we added door to door transportation, as well as urgent recovery of our customer´s in-house storage. Our cost-effective services are based on one contact and one platform even if you store several different substances. In emergency situations we can provide adequate space that meets the regulatory demands within 24 hours.”

Natural Business Partner from Day One
The business continued to grow and in 2014, Birka BioStorage signed contracts with their first customers in Finland and Denmark. In 2016 they got customers from the USA and the Netherlands as well.
Today, the company has become the main Scandinavian GMP certified repository for the storage of crucial biological and pharmaceutical material such as cell banks, API & drug products, clinical trial product samples, reference material, stem cells and biobanks. Furthermore, Birka have just started the planning to set up the largest repository hub in the world.
”Now we’re a natural business partner from day one when someone outlines a new development project, clinical study or manufacturing process. And authorized bodies are actually consulting us when setting up new guidelines for pharmaceutical logistics. It’s an example of how we influence new standards. We have learnt a lot and gladly share our knowledge. That way everyone wins,” he says.
But Ali Ismail didn’t stop there. He has recently launched three new business projects at Ideon: Canopus Medical, Insolidex and Resanitec.
”Canopus Medical focuses on pharmaceutical manufacturing, Insolidex on robotic milling of medical metals for industrial tools, knee-caps, hip balls etc, and Resanitec will provide cleaning, testing, mapping of risks in connection with facilities classed as hygiene zones,” he explains.