World’s first rapid testing device to detect the source of a chemical attack has been developed by Cardiff firm BBI

A Cardiff-based technology company has developed the world’s first rapid testing device for anthrax if used in a terrorist attack.

Addressing a meeting of Cardiff Breakfast Club one of Wales’s leading entrepreneurs and investors, Alan Peterson, confirmed that BBI Group – which he chairs – has developed an innovative testing device that can identify the source of a chemical attack.

Mr Peterson became chairman of the company earlier this year following its acquisition by Exponent Private Capital from Alere for £104m.

He said the business plan was to double its current turnover of around £60m, with a focus on organic growth and expanding its presence in US markets.

Mr Peterson said “ After years of travelling eventually I found a company in Cardiff [BBI]. This is a great success, but something of a kept secret.”

Born out of Cardiff University it uses gold reagents in natural flow testing, whether for pregnancy or the diagnosis of diseases.

Its customers include Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, as well as many of the world’s big scientific institutions. BBI also has a presence internationally.

Mr Peterson said: “It is a modern technology company that is transforming the way patient care is conducted.

“And one of its greatest devices we are just about to launch… where we have the sole contract with the US and UK military.

We have been working with them, so if tonight there was a major incident on the New York Metro or London Underground, it would be our little device designed here in South Wales which has the test strips which will tell you whether you are in the presence of anthrax, ricin, smallpox, or whatever.

“And it does it within minutes. There is no other supplier in the world.”

Stifling innovation

Mr Peterson, who is also chairman of HSS Hire, said that the education system stifles innovation.

He said: A fact of life is that education kills creativity and doesn’t prepare us well for the road ahead.

“Education dislocates our natural talent. Those leaving school now will be retiring in 2070. What is facing them on the road ahead? It is quite extraordinary, but one thing is for sure the education system will not prepare them.”

He added: “So my approach has always been to switch on employees and provide the processes for them to really get to grips with innovation, and I think that creativity is the real area of growth for business and how you get success.

“It is about creating a positive environment and one thing that is key, and something that I am proud of, is that no one has the franchise on a good idea and certainly not the bosses, as they are usually the last people to have those.”

However, he said if left along innovation can become very costly.

Cardiff-born Mr Peterson said: “There are loads of firms which have light bulb moments, but there is a lot cost and sometimes it is too complex and outside their capabilities.

“But you have to be able to measure it [innovation] and while KPIs is a phrase used too often, I think it is important that you have key performance indicators that help you along the way.

“Then you have to understand that if it moves the dial, you should be looking to transform your business because of it.

“Richie Benaud was once asked what made a great cricket captain and he said 90% luck and 10% skill, but don’t try it without the latter. And that is what I say about innovation, because the big thing here is the fact that you need a process to sit alongside innovation if you are to make a lot of money.”

Cardiff Breakfast Club, which was held at its new home of the SSE Swalec Stadium, is sponsored by Stills Branding, Blake Morgan, Lloyds Banking Group, Cardiff Business Council and the Western Mail.

Credit: Sion Barry Wales Online

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