Interview with LCC member Sure Laboratories

LCC member Sure Laboratories is a true specialist in microbiological analyses. For several years now, the lab, located in the town of Helmond, checks medicines and medical devices for the presence of all kinds of bacteria, fungi and viruses. In addition, the company can check whether production areas of, for example, pharmaceutical companies are free of such organisms and is renowned for its expertise on bactericidal/fungicidal activity testing of biocides

The lab has also been working on improving disinfection and sterilization techniques, so it makes sense that this year Sure Laboratories helped develop a method for detecting Covid infections using PCR analysis, approved by the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM).

founder and owner

Frank van der ZandenSure Laboratories

For this interview we speak with founder and owner Frank van der Zanden. He explains that the company name does not derive from the English “sure”, but rather from a little river in France where he likes to go on holiday. If you look closely at the logo on the website, you will indeed see a blue river flowing through a green landscape, in the form of the letter S. Just like a real trickle of water, Frank sees his company encounter ever-increasing flows of knowledge and information until it finds its way to the sea like a great river. A nice metaphor for growing a company on the basis of knowledge sharing and collaboration.

Frank has a long history in the analysis of microbes. 20 years ago he worked at the Nijmegen-based company Bactimm, which back then was responsible for the microbiological quality control of medicinal cannabis grown by Dutch LP Bedrocan . At the time, Frank often thought that certain analyses could be smarter or faster and now that he has started his own laboratory, he has the chance to pick up some of those ideas again. All work is executed according to a ISO 13485:2016 quality system and the EU-GMP principles. Sure Laboratories received its own cannabis license for R&D in 2020, and Frank is now trying to expand his network through the LCC.

At this point, Sure Laboratories has not yet secured any major domestic cannabis projects. But there are also currently very few parties in the Netherlands that require microbiological analysis of their cannabis products. However, Frank sees clear opportunities: the market will develop in both the medicinal and recreational areas. There are already contacts with the Waalwijk-based cannabis grower Fyta, to measure whether the cultivation areas meet the requirements for medicinal cultivation from a microbiological point of view. And the quality requirements for CBD are also slowly becoming stricter. Frank is in contact with the Cannabinoiden Adviesbureau Nederland (CAN), an organization in Amsterdam that is introducing a national quality mark for CBD oil. The goal is to get Sure Laboratories on the list of approved labs, where CBD producers can have their products analysed for the CAN quality mark.

Sure Laboratories is also interested in the antimicrobial effect of the cannabis components themselves. Scientific literature has long suggested that cannabinoids such as THC and CBD have a significant effect against certain pathogens. This has become very relevant again, especially in Covid times. The analysis methods themselves are also due for an update. The way in which the Dutch Office of Medicinal Cannabis has its medicinal cannabis tested for quality was developed around 2003. Frank absolutely sees scope for modernizing those methods, in order to measure faster, cheaper and more accurately. This is also important for the upcoming Dutch experiment with legalizing recreational cannabis supply (Experiment Gesloten Coffeeshopketen), because all those products will soon have to be analysed for the presence of microbes, also known as “bioburden”.

So, there is plenty of work to be done, and the name ‘Sure Laboratories’ is gaining more and more recognition in the Pharma world. Larger customers are starting to switch to Frank and his colleagues. According to Frank, working together within the LCC does take time, but if we do it right, we can also get more done as a group. Frank’s advice is to develop a good line-up of services and products, so that members can follow up one another clearly and efficiently when helping a customer. And that applies not only to cultivation – also during plant processing and product development, the steps of the process must be properly coordinated. And Sure Laboratories can ensure that the bioburden, both of the process and the end product, will be up to standards.

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