COPAN Diagnostics Expands into Carlsbad to Boost Production of COVID-19 Test Kits

September 28, 2020

At a Carlsbad business park, a global biotech company is quietly crafting technology that’s being used on the frontlines in the fight against COVID-19. 

This summer, Carlsbad became home to COPAN Diagnostics, part of the international COPAN Group, a market leader for the sample collection and transport kits that play a pivotal role in COVID-19 testing.

“People don’t give much thought to the swabs that are used for COVID-19 testing, but the design of those is critical and it’s our area of expertise,” said Gabriela Franco, COPAN Marketing Director. “If the sample is not collected at the right time, with the right tool, and in the right way, the result could be compromised. So, we’ve worked very hard to perfect our swabs and the transport media.” 

As the pandemic began to grip the nation last spring, COPAN knew it needed to ramp-up production of its test kits, and fast. It was able to turbocharge that supply chain thanks largely to a $10 million grant from Apple, which came from its advanced manufacturing fund.

“COPAN is one of the world’s most innovative manufacturers of sample collection kits for COVID-19 testing, and we’re thrilled to partner with them so they can expand as we work to address this critical issue for our nation,” stated Apple Chief Operating Officer Jeff Williams in a news release.

“We’re honored to be recipients of this grant because it’s allowing us to bring our technology to the hospitals and frontline healthcare workers across our nation when they need it most,” Franco said.

Over the past few months, COPAN Diagnostics has boosted its capacity from producing several thousand test kits per week in the US to over half a million sample collection kits per week with the goal of reaching one million kits per week. 

To make that happen, this summer COPAN expanded operations from Murrieta, where it occupies several buildings, to Carlsbad, where it now fills a 38,000-square-foot free standing building known as Carlsbad Crossroads, located at 2728 Loker Avenue West. The space is a premiere research and development property that doubles as a flexible manufacturing facility. For COPAN, Franco said “it’s precisely what the company needed.” 

There are 125 COPAN employees working at its 38,000-square foot facility in Carlsbad, with plans to soon hire more staff. Courtesy photo.

“We were particularly drawn to Carlsbad because of its strong reputation as a life sciences hub,” Franco said. “Given the crisis of this pandemic, we did not have much time to spare. Thankfully, we were able to quickly set our sights on Carlsbad and find exactly what we needed here. We know Carlsbad makes sense for our future, too, because there are many other life science leaders here.” 

In fact, there are more than 120 life science companies in Carlsbad, which is 5.4 times higher than the national average. The industry also generated nearly $3 billion in sales last year and accounts for more than 6,500 local jobs, according to the same research. 

Thanks to the city’s life sciences cluster, Franco said COPAN has tapped into an impressive talent pool. To date, the Carlsbad location has 125 employees, with plans to add more soon. For example, Franco said COPAN is recruiting for: operators for filling, packaging, and final inspection; quality assurance technicians and maintenance technicians; and a plant manager with experience in medical devices.

“For many of these roles, candidates don’t necessarily need biotech or medical device experience. We provide training because we believe in investing in people,” Franco said. “We’re most concerned with finding high-quality employees who want to be a part of our team. We are a family-owned company and that drives our corporate culture.” 

The company is part of the larger COPAN Group, a global leader in specimen collection and preservation for infectious disease diagnostics. In 2003, it invented the revolutionary flocked swabs, a molded plastic applicator stick that has variable tips coated with Nylon fibers that allow for quick uptake and complete elution of the sample. 

Today, COPAN’s UTM (Universal Transport Medium) remains the leader for the collection, transport, preservation, and long-term freeze storage of clinical specimens containing viruses like COVID-19. 

“We pride ourselves on our history of innovation, and are excited to continue growing here in Carlsbad,” Fanco said. 

City of Carlsbad Economic Development Manager, Matt Sanford said COPAN underscores the caliber of life science company the City is capable of attracting and supporting. 

“We’re thrilled to welcome COPAN as one of the many trailblazing companies that call Carlsbad home,” said Sanford. “As part of our booming biotech cluster, we have zero doubt COPAN will continue to innovate and benefit from the great talent pool here in Carlsbad”

For more information about COPAN, please visit To view the company’s opportunities, please visit COPAN’s career pageFor more information about the City of Carlsbad’s economic development services, please visit the City’s business resource page — or contact Economic Development Manager Matt Sanford at 760.607.2923 or [email protected].