K-Plan: Provence Promotion is assisting the pool of biologists in their efforts to diversify.
K-Plan is a Lyon-based business that designs investigative labs for the field. In 2014, K-Plan opened a biology department unlike any other at the Luminy campus in Marseille. It trains the buyers of its laboratories (military, civilian security, research institutes, NGOs) to assemble them and follow protocols adapted to deteriorated field conditions (high humidity, heat, etc.). Because they get up and running quickly, these labs give populations dealing with epidemics or natural disasters access to biological testing whose quality is as good as what is performed in French labs. Provence Promotion is assisting the pool of biologists in their efforts to diversify.
In refugee camps, when a natural disaster strikes, medical teams are dispatched to the location. “Biology is often treated as the poor relation in crisis management. To address this shortcoming, K-Plan designed and developed a compact medical testing laboratory that can be transported by helicopter, boat or pick-up truck, then assembled and disassembled in just 30 minutes,” explains Professor Daniel Parzy. This former military doctor and biologist spent the last 20 years researching malaria at the Marseille Tropical Diseases Institute in the Pharo. When the Military Health Department closed in 2013, the parasitology team was disbanded. Refusing to allow such skills to go to waste, he approached his brother Dominique, an electronics engineer who had founded K-Plan in 2007, about creating a biology department in Marseille.
The SMB has grown significantly since then and currently employs 14 people: 11 engineers in Villeurbanne and 3 biologists based in Marseille.
“Provence Promotion helped us set up in Luminy and is always monitoring the progress of our operations”. It introduced us to other companies in the region. For example, we recently met X Rapid, which specializes in diagnosing malaria. The agency has supported us with information about financial assistance mechanisms and helped us with hiring,” notes Daniel Parzy, who hopes to expand the staff of his biology department in the very near future.
Highly responsive biologists
The work of K-Plan’s biology department consists mainly in training buyers to use the laboratories so they are quickly operational in the field, conducting R&D in synergy with engineers in Lyons and transferring skills to support field biologists in their evaluation and research efforts.
“The sturdy equipment withstands extreme weather conditions, temperature fluctuations and dust. However, when they work on site, biologists must contend with the limitations of the field and be careful to maintain the cold chain to keep the reagents at a constant temperature.”
Daniel Parzy and his team worked on malaria resistance for two years in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and trained their Congolese counterparts. At the request of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, ultra-mobile laboratories were sent to Guinea from 2014 to 2016 as part of the fight against the Ebola virus.
Now his bags are packed again. “In the next few weeks, we will be hitting the ground along the border between Angola and DRC to support the National Institute for Biomedical Research in combating the yellow fever epidemic,” adds the globetrotting doctor.
Health monitoring in endemic areas
The countries in these endemic areas are seeking to implement real-time health monitoring systems; they could stage these mini-laboratories in vulnerable areas.
K-Plan was once a supplier of testing equipment, but now it has become a services company with this biological alert platform. It is a critical investment for governments that want to reduce mortality and lower healthcare costs.