Belfast Telegraph

Deal signed to test new life-saving water kit

By Heather McGarrigle

A Co.Down manufacturer has secured a watertight six-figure deal.

Dundonald-based Sepha Ltd will supply blister-packing and leak-testing technology to a life-saving water testing project.

Aquatest involves a worldwide consortium set up by the University of Bristol. With the aid of a $13m grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the project aims to produce a handheld device to test water for the presence of E.Coli.

The device is expected to form part of the fight against water-borne diseases, which kill 1.8m people a year, 1.5m of whom are children under the age of five.

Sepha will form, seal and leak test 50,000 blister packs containing Aquatest's active ingredients.

The company will use its existing specialist technology in a newly constructed 'clean lab'.

Thom Brain, Aquatest project manager at the University of Bristol, said: "Sepha's expertise and their engagement with the project have ensured that we are able to develop a bespoke pack with all the special features that are required for it to perform effectively within the device.

"Sepha's technical knowhow and project management have also meant we have been able to move the project swiftly forward."

Sepha chief executive John Haran said capital investment in additional facilities and creation of a new laboratory technician job will enable the firm to target this niche with other companies.

The company has been pursuing a strategy of growth, with marketing teams exploring international opportunities.

In an interview with Business Telegraph in January, Mr Haran said: "Asia is of growing importance, with major opportunities in China and India.

"We have a strong network of agents and distributors to provide in-market assistance. From a zero base in 2009, we now have distributors in all the major countries in South America."

He also told of the "great excitement" being caused by the new testing equipment they were developing for global markets.

On Aquatest, he said he was "delighted that our leading technologies have been chosen to ensure this significant and high profile project achieves maximum success."

The first batch should be distributed globally in late 2011 to NGOs, aid agencies and governments in developing countries.