An exciting but incomprehensible challenge at first sight, even for the relatives of Vincent Tandino, owner of the company Oradiochem : ‘I tell my mother that I’m making a sort of microwave oven with the aim of producing radioactive molecules which enable the detection of serious diseases to be better able to treat them.’
A mystery to you as well? It’s normal, it’s a very specific niche area. But don’t panic, it’s exciting and we will understand it together.
Let’s start at the beginning: imagine, on the major road that connects Philippeville to Vodecée, a square building with the logo ‘ORA (Optimised Radiochemical Application)’ at the entrance. Inside, a cafeteria, offices, a meeting room and several basic laboratories. We encounter about 15 people doing various jobs, from marketing and administration to biochemists to electrical mechanics. All of the employees, mostly men, are between 25 and 45 years old.
Their job? Designing and programming machines
‘To be able to understand the idea behind our products, you have to imagine that we are developing a sort of intelligent coffee machine in our sector: the coffee, water and the basic machine come from the producers. We take these three elements and we programme the machine to make better coffee and then we sell it so that our customers can make better coffee.’
Specifically, Oradiochem designs, produces and sells biomedical machines (automated synthesisers, to be more specific) in the area of disease detection, mainly Alzheimer’s. These automated machines combine a chemical with an isotope (radioactive substance) in a way to obtain radiopharmaceutical markers.
The main customers of Oradiochem are therefore laboratories and universities which prepare solutions that hospitals use for their patients. Oradiochem has currently sold 300 machines all over the world, some with a maintenance service, some not.
Our machines detect diseases in the patient’s brain with a high level of precision
A robot which combines multiple products
To make these machines, the employees of Oradiochem follow precise steps to create a molecule.
‘The technician could make this mixture him or herself, per se. But here, the machine guarantees the stability and sterility of the combined products, and above all, prevents the person from being in direct contact with the radioactivity,’ says LaurianBrotcorne, product officer at Oradiochem.
Some products are radioactive
The company specialises in the manufacture of machines which use radioactive products. The workers and the company’s direct environment are protected from these dangerous substances. The machine, fed by a cyclotron, will be fully automated and enclosed in a lead chamber of more than 5 tonnes.
From a basic model, the employees are continuously carrying out tests to improve the solutions on offer. On the one hand, they adapt the software, remotely downloaded via a computer and, on the other hand, they customise the hardware so that the right ingredients and the right quantities are selected according to the different standards.
In Philippeville, we are working on the medicine of the future
In Philippeville, they are carrying out ‘cold’ tests, just with water. For the next steps, they go to Liège and to Lyon to work on ‘hot’ machines, in other words by using substances based on radioactive products.
To what extent are these machines so exceptional?
First of all, they guarantee a reliable radioactive combination for the patient. No risk to the patient. Then, they protect the workers in the laboratory from radioactivity. What’s more, they ensure the effectiveness of the radioactivity: a solution prepared just before its injection is much more effective than if it has been prepared and transported before the test (this type of radioactivity diminishes very quickly over time). Finally, they are the symbol of medical progress and of the future promise of preventive, safe medicine.
The professional challenge is therefore considerable: the young employees have promising outlooks for the development of these automated synthesisers for which demand is increasing every day. Together, they are working on the overriding issues of tomorrow’s world, such as preventive healthcare. All in a particularly pleasant atmosphere.
Rue de la Gendarmerie 50/B