Ahlstrom-Munksjö’s Liquid Technologies business response to COVID-19

Ahlstrom-Munksjö’s Liquid Technologies business response to COVID-19

The rapid spread of COVID-19 across the world has exposed major gaps in the abilities of most countries to respond to a virulent new pathogen. This has inevitably led to an increase in the demand for healthcare goods in general and particularly protective medical products made of fabrics, medical devices,  diagnostics and screening tools.  

Ahlstrom-Munksjö has been able to respond to the growing demand with its product offering serving end-user segments in healthcare and life science industries. It has leveraged from its unique capability in filter materials, as well as rearranged and increased production of health care and medical related product segments to fight the pandemic. 

“We are very proud of the contribution that our solutions can bring in these exceptional circumstances. Now more than ever, we see the need to strongly support the healthcare system and the global effort to safeguard patients’ health, make COVID-19 diagnosis faster and more accessible and support the work of the medical community in finding treatment and implementing more efficient preventive measures against the virus outbreak,” comments Laia Guarro, VP Liquid Technologies. 

“Since the beginning of this emergency we have been capable of continuing with our operations at full, adjusting our approach and capabilities to meet the growing demand, yet safeguarding the health of our employees. We’ve always been committed to doing business with purpose, a key principle which is especially valuable in these critical circumstances”. 

Venting filters for respiratory devices  

Artificial respiratory machines are of key importance to patients affected by COVID-19 given the respiratory issues caused by the virus and are key in contributing to their life-support and recovery. Since the COVID-19 outbreak there has been a growing demand for venting filters and respiratory devices which are an integral part of the equipment.  

Ahlstrom-Munksjö develops filter media and finished medical devices specifically used in artificial respiratory equipment, protecting the safety of patients on mechanical ventilation and reducing the risk of cross contamination. Our filters also work as heat exchangers, accumulating the patient’s expired heat and moisture and returning them to the patient during the inhalation phase, property which reduces potential additional breathing problems during artificial ventilation. 

The filter media feature a global footprint as they are manufactured in Falun, Sweden; Mount Holly Springs, USA; and at the Italian sites of Fabriano and Turin. 

Components for rapid diagnostic kits 

Developing a rapid test for COVID-19 is one of the key areas that researchers around the world are targeting in order to quickly isolate those infected. Some of these tests are based on the lateral flow immunochromatographic assays principle, were simple cellulose-based devices are intended to detect the presence of a target analyte in liquid samples, blood for instance, without the need for specialized and costly equipment. The Liquid Technologies business manufactures three of the four pads included in a rapid test kit at its dedicated sites in Mount Holly Springs and Bethune in the USA; Falun, Sweden; and in the plants of Karhula and Brignoud. Prioritizing the operations in order to fulfill the demand for this market segments has also been crucial to support the effort. 

Cards for biosample collection used in disease screening 

Part of the offering in the diagnostics market are the cards dedicated to the collection of biosamples, such as blood and saliva, which are already extensively used in infectious disease screening programs globally, HIV monitoring in Africa being an example. Ahlstrom-Munksjö’s cards for biosample collection and preservation, manufactured in Bärenstein, Germany and Mount Holly Springs and Bethune, USA, are based on the Dried Blood Spot (DBS) technology, considered by many the future of convenient home blood testing. A microvolume of blood sample is collected directly onto a specimen collection card, transported to the laboratory and preserved at ambient temperature prior to analysis. In recent years, the use of DBS has gained increasing interest compared to the conventional collection and analysis of liquid samples and has been broadly utilized by the healthcare system, especially in challenging environments as it leads to a simplification of the blood collection process and a significant reduction of the costs involved. The above product features, combined with the knowledge and experience of the company in the newborn and HIV screening programs could bring a contribution in following a similar direction in the global effort to detect COVID-19.  

Filter media for drinkable water in times of limited mobility 

The contribution of the Liquid Technologies business is not limited to supporting the growing demand in the medical diagnosis and devices fields. Lockdowns, supplies shortages and limited mobility are creating issues for sourcing even the most basic products, including drinkable water. Purifying water at home with appliances such as pitchers or portable water bottles including media capable of removing the harmful contaminants from water could thus be a key alternative to face the issue. Ahlstrom-Munksjö Disruptor® nonwoven filter media is widely used in personal and residential water purification. Thanks to its ability to remove a wide range of impurities, bacteria and viruses from water, the filter media improves the quality of water and makes it safe to consume for the end-user. 

Liquid Technologies business – key facts: 

Ahlstrom-Munksjö’s Liquid Technologies broad range of advanced solutions serves four separate market segments: Laboratory, Life Science, Water Purification, and Food and Beverage processing.  

Within the Food and Beverage processing segment, the business offers filter media used in the fast food industry to filter hot cooking oil. It also produces a range of high quality filtration media for separating particles from fluid in the food and beverage manufacturing processes, as well as a complete range of milk filtration media which contributes to improved milk quality and efficient milking process. 

The Laboratory segment supplies a wide range of filtration and separation media to laboratories worldwide which are used for sample preparation and specialized applications. 

Water purification is another key application of the business thanks to Disruptor® nonwoven filter media, which is widely used to remove contaminants from water in personal and residential water purification devices, such as pitchers, portable water bottles and home appliances.  

Within the Life Science segment the business cards for collection, transportation and storage of biosamples at ambient temperature used for efficient and convenient screening of  infectious diseases, human identification and genetic mapping and manufactures components used in rapid diagnostic kits for fast detection of medical conditions.  

The Liquid Technologies business also develops filter media and devices specifically used in artificial respiratory equipment.  

  • Net sales amounted to approximately EUR 70 million in 2019
  • Demand driven by quick, cost-effective solutions for healthcare, patient-friendly diagnosis procedures, performed at home, increase in testing for environmental and health monitoring, safer drinking water, rising quality standards for food and liquids
  • Ahlstrom-Munksjö aims at strengthening its position in the life science and laboratory segments through further product development and partnerships with e.g. kit assemblers. In liquid purification, the business will continue to penetrate the water purification market through more end-use applications.