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The future of the environmental diagnostics market is promising and will be oriented towards fast, easy, and on-site diagnostic methods
Bluephage interviews Adela Yañez from LABAQUA to discuss the current state of the environmental diagnostics market and how her company, within the Agbar Group, plays a crucial role in the development of R&D for the sector.
Could you introduce yourself and tell us about your role at LABAQUA?
I have a Ph.D. in Biochemistry, and I am a microbiologist. I am currently working as Innovation Manager at LABAQUA.
My job is, based on the strategic lines of the company, to promote innovation through new projects, new management tools, and the identification of new business lines. In our Department, we manage the whole innovation process from the generation of ideas to the market launch of new products, including research projects, if necessary, to carry out the developments and the Technological Surveillance and Competitive Intelligence.
Could you describe Labaqua in one sentence?
LABAQUA is a leading company in the field of laboratory and environmental services, offering environmental consulting and laboratory analysis solutions to industry and public administration.
How do you see the water analysis market?
In Spain, we are at a stage of maturity in the water economy, characterized by a high and growing demand for water and a scarcity of this resource. For this reason, all new water legislation aims to promote reuse and reduce consumption. The analysis market, both for drinking water and all types of environmental waters, is regulated but has always lagged behind in terms of investment and application of methods.
Water quality control at all levels is increasingly critical due to the growing environmental impact. In addition, new regulations are gradually incorporating the detection of new emerging contaminants, whose presence in the environment can be harmful to humans and ecosystems. The new directives on drinking water and water reuse open the door to new microbiological parameters, such as coliphages.
Therefore, laboratories such as ours have a lot to say in the search for new analytical tools that allow better, faster, and more robust detection and always with the quality that characterizes accredited laboratories.
They are very comprehensive directives that address many aspects of the whole process of production and supply of drinking water. But if we focus on the new quality parameters, the new regulations have included a complete control of these parameters at all stages of the process. From the catchment to the point of consumption, with new analytical parameters, including the monitoring of somatic coliphages in the operational control programs, specific for the supply and oriented to obtain a quick overview of the effectiveness of all control measures and potentially related problems with water quality.
This allows the rapid implementation of corrective measures, establishing control in untreated waters to check the treatment processes. In addition, in the 2020/741 regulation on reuse issues, coliphages are included as indicators to identify pathogenic viruses for use in agricultural irrigation. Therefore, a significant increase in the demand for analysis of this parameter is expected.
The urgency in the industry is to develop rapid diagnostic methods to expedite decision-making almost immediately. This should be the priority for the acquisition of new diagnostic tools.
Your laboratory has been performing coliphages analysis for years. What would you suggest to laboratories to incorporate this parameter into their routine?
Bacteriophages have emerged as an alternative to bacterial indicators for water quality monitoring in the last decade. Their use as fecal or viral indicators is recommended by WHO and is being included in European regulations.
LABAQUA has been accredited for more than 20 years to analyze coliphages, and the analysis methodology is complex to apply, as it takes a long time to develop. However, the solutions proposed by Bluephage allow laboratories to use the method quickly, both following international standards (ISO, EPA) and applying faster methods with robust results supported by a group with extensive experience in the scientific field of bacteriophages.
The pandemic has shown that we need viral indicators. They exist for bacteria and other microorganisms, but we have very few for viruses. Coliphages have proven to be a good indicator of fecal contamination.
The emergence of bacteriophages in the new legislation will force laboratories to develop these methodologies, so analytical laboratories will have to acquire technical skills to determine and quantify bacteriophages.
At this point, Bluephage will play a crucial role in supporting laboratories in the rapid implementation of detection methodologies, addressing the need for fast and simplified methods emerging in the environmental diagnostics market.
What can you tell us about quality control programs and ISO 17025 standards?
Faced with the challenges of today’s markets, with ever-increasing demands from customers, quality to meet their expectations is a fundamental element that guarantees a company’s success.
ISO 17025 is a framework standard that must be followed by all diagnostic laboratories and verifies that they comply with quality guidelines in their processes. All analyses performed by the laboratory can be accredited under this standard, which means that the methods are validated in terms of reproducibility, repeatability, the limit of detection, and limit of quantification.
LABAQUA has implemented a quality system that affects all company areas, including accreditations, certifications, homologations… One of these accreditations is the accreditation under ISO 17025, whose main objective is to ensure the technical competence and reliability of the analytical results of the laboratories.
At Labaqua you have precise specifications on Corporate Social Responsibility. What aspects would you highlight, and what are your sustainability objectives for the coming years?
As an environmental services company, we prioritize initiatives related to sustainability. The company’s strategic vision and culture are aligned on this point and permeate all company areas.
Our commitment to sustainability, both environmental and social, is total.
An example of the former environmental sustainability is our leadership in the R&D&I project MICROMANAGE, which seeks to develop a rapid pathogen detection system to enhance reclaimed water’s control and environmental impact. This project responds to the challenges identified by the Strategic Committee for Specialized Innovation (CEIE) in the circular economy, which advocates the development of innovations that contribute to the extension of the uses of reclaimed water in urban and agricultural environments.
Regarding social sustainability, Labaqua has been developing, for years, a continuous work of environmental awareness and education in the youngest focused on raising awareness of sustainable uses of water and climate change.
Likewise, internally, we encourage responsibility in the use of resources and the preference for sustainable materials.
Our medium- and long-term objectives remain rooted in our culture and values: for us, the preservation of water, the circular economy, public awareness, and the commitment to innovation as an impact are the driving forces that move us every day.