How Enzo Biochem focused its resources on battling the pandemic
In the grand scheme of companies being wooed to other states via generous tax breaks and other incentives, Long Island tends to be on the short end of the stick with businesses like OSI Pharmaceuticals, Northrop Grumman and First Data Corporation putting a dent in the local economy by fleeing for greener pastures.
Farmingdale’s Enzo Biochem did just the opposite in closing down its Michigan plant and bringing all their facilities back to the 100,000-square foot, four-building campus, where the life sciences and biotechnology company planted its roots 45-plus years ago. The company’s local presence manifested itself to a greater level when it responded to the pandemic by realigning its teams to put the company’s full focus on providing widespread testing and helping prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Enzo Biochem’s actions led to the Long Island Association (LIA) honoring the company with the COVID Hero Award for its contributions to making testing widely available to area residents during the pandemic. It’s an accolade new Enzo Biochem CEO Hamid Erfanian is rightfully proud of.
“[President] Matt [Cohen] and the LIA did such a nice job,” Erfanian said. “It’s a testament to what our team did during this time overall. The award was great and the ceremony was great. It was a nice way to get acquainted with Long Island and the people that are here.”
Amid all the economic and societal turmoil caused by COVID-19 in the past two years, Enzo made the bold move to consolidate its operation even as its industry and the world writ large were scrambling around amid testing and supply chain upheaval. Furthermore, the Farmingdale company doubled down, choosing to update and expand the facility and embark on expansion that includes adding 40 employees locally through 2022. It’s a move Erfanian was fully on board with when he took over the reins from Enzo founder Dr. Elazar Rabbani, who had served as the company’s chairman of the board since its inception in 1976.
“Enzo has been around the community for four-plus decades,” Erfanian explained. “The roots of Enzo are in Farmingdale. Over here we have four buildings that do R&D (research and development), product development and we have a global presence. Along the way, Enzo acquired several companies, one of which was in Ann Arbor, MI, where a good part of our portfolio was being produced. As of last year, instead of us going out there, we decided we were going to transfer everything here. Part of it is consolidation, but really, another part of it is a commitment to Long Island.”
This kind of local obligation is no small feat given the fact that this 500 employee-strong publicly traded company makes $117 million annually. The company has 475 patents it uses in 200,000 products that include antibodies, probes and dyes for drug development and pharmaceutical companies around the world. Balancing out Enzo’s life sciences product division is a robust laboratory set-up that became crucial because of its significant testing platform used by hospital, doctor’s offices and individual physicians around the tristate area. The lab runs tests for everything from glucose, HDL, LDL and cholesterol results to analyses for thyroid, cancer, maternal health and infectious disease assessments. Erfanian pointed out how crucial this component is in health care, given the fact that 80 percent of physicians’ decisions come from lab testing. So when the pandemic came along and testing became a crucial component of weathering the ever-changing nature of COVID-19 and its different variants, Enzo was forced to shift gears by developing a COVID PCR testing kit in-house and repurposing existing company technology to accommodate mass processing of these tests. In addition, the company set up testing sites throughout the area to serve residents.
It also partnered with Long Island universities and school systems to provide on-site testing to allow the return of students and faculty, with similar efforts aimed at local businesses. And lastly, it created an online portal for individuals to schedule testing rather than waiting in the long lines that had developed. It’s a massive pivot Erfanian and his team took seriously.
“A lot of hard work went into making sure you have reproducible, accurate and timely results under tremendous pressure,” Erfanian said. “We could not have results go out late. We couldn’t have inaccurate results. I go back to my own experience. I got back invalid test results, which meant going back and getting swabbed again. Those numbers were super minimal from Enzo, even when you go back to peak time when we were getting out 6,000 to 8,000 samples a night that we were producing through our lab. Over this period, we produced 900,000 to 1 million results altogether for COVID-19. We started out operating the laboratory five days a week with a second and third shift. Then we went to six days a week and now we are 100 percent, seven days a week. That’s some of the good work the team did.”
Given the fraudulent goings-on with blood-testing that was allegedly perpetuated by Silicon Valley-based Theranos, which has so far yielded the 2019 HBO documentary The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley and the Hulu television drama miniseries The Dropout, Erfanian is well aware that while Enzo’s product may be PCR tests, public trust is the commodity his company is dealing with every time one of the 1.2 million tubes of tests come into the Enzo labs.
“Every tube that comes into the lab, there is a worried person sitting on the other end of it,” Erfanian said. “It’s a level of responsibility, but also a level of satisfaction. You’re really carrying the heavy burden in terms of providing such a result that provides the kind of intervention for a patient to be able to be treated accurately and effectively when going over this ailment they’re dealing with.”
Visit www.enzo.com to learn more about Enzo Biochem.