AbBaltis: Hosting an Internship in a Pandemic

AbBaltis serve the in vitro diagnostics and biotech markets by offering innovative, reliable and quality biologically-based products for their clients. Based in Kent, they took part in EIRA’s Innovation Internship scheme in 2020 and hosted a Biotechnology internship for PhD student Paige Policelli from our School of Biosciences.

The Challenge

The SARS-CoV-2 virus responsible for the Covid-19 pandemic spiked demand for IgM (early infection) and IgG (developed infection) antibodies which could help scientists to understand the human immunological response to Covid-19 and consequently develop vaccinations. In response, AbBaltis began testing all of their current stock in the hope of sourcing these incredibly research-valuable antibodies, as well as positive samples potentially containing the virus itself.

The Approach

As a keen, newly graduated biochemist, Paige knew that she could use her skills and intellect to contribute against Covid-19 by supporting AbBaltis in this work. As an intern on the Innovation Internship scheme, she was able to contribute to the company’s early response to the pandemic and the design of a  unique in-house enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISAs) to increase the reliability of positive IgG and IgM SARS-CoV-2 raised antibodies, using HCOV 229e and NL63 proteins.

Paige was also able to lend a hand to keep on top of routine testing, to support AbBaltis in the supply of many other viral, autoimmune and allergen positive samples. This gave her the opportunity to learn how to conduct a vast range of other immunological tests, including line blots used to test for allergies, and indirect immunofluorescent testing (IIFT) used to detect autoimmune diseases.

“It was great to have an “outsider” with ideas and inspiration to improve our processes and procedures while learning about diagnostics and helping the research community with combating COVID-19.”

Giedre Brandao, Managing Director

The Result

Paige was very excited to discover a long awaited amoxicilloyl positive donor (a rare antibiotic allergy) that will contribute massively into the research of unique antibiotic allergies. We caught up with her to find out more about her experience with AbBaltis, particularly at such a globally critical time. She said:

“My time at AbBaltis was thoroughly enjoyable and extremely valuable to my career as a laboratory scientist. I got to see the business side of science, which is something that was new to me, as I had never worked in industry. Giedre is a fantastic example of an inspirational woman within STEM and I’m now part ofa great network.

Giedra Brandeo, Managing Director of AbBaltis, said of the internship, “We were delighted to host Paige as an intern at AbBaltis.  As SARS-COV-2 spread throughout the world and reached pandemic levels, I saw many businesses back out from providing internships and other engagements.  Our priority is to ensure that our staff members are as safe as possible and even before the lockdowns, we moved most of our office staff to work from home. Hence, we had more space to safely accommodate interns. Paige has brought lots of enthusiasm, positivity, and insight into our team.”

“As the pandemic is still ongoing, many businesses are once again hesitant to offer internships. I would urge them to reconsider this and give the internships a go.”

The Enabling Innovation: Research to Application (EIRA) Innovation Internships encouraged SME businesses based in the East of England to temporarily take on a student or recent graduate from a university or college in the region. If you are interested in taking on a student intern from the University of Kent, speak to our dedicated innovation gateway team who can discuss with you the options for doing so.