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Chroma's Products Play Key Role in COVID-19 Testing

Wednesday, April 8, 2020   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Jeff Couture

Restaurants may be closed, supermarkets may display empty shelves, and small businesses may be afraid of going bankrupt, but at least one Windham County company is doing well in the heart of the COVID-19 virus pandemic.

Chroma Technology in Bellows Falls, which manufactures optical filters for the scientific, biomedical, photonics, and imaging industries, is facing an unprecedented call for its products.

“An optical filter takes light and breaks it into its component colors,” Chroma CEO Paul Millman told The Commons in a March 25 interview. “And there are tests dependent on seeing the fluorescence of something.”

“Sometimes they use our filters at 0 degrees,” Millman continued. “Sometimes they’re tilted. Sometimes they’re bigger, and sometimes they’re smaller. Sometimes they go into a robot. Sometimes they go into a microscope. They’re all optical filters.”

Right now, the world is consumed by science, and the demand for new optical filters — and new kinds of optical filters — is strong and growing stronger. Chroma’s biggest problem could be meeting the onslaught of demands.

Today, in laboratories around the world, scientists are frantically working on tests for and vaccines against the COVID-19 virus that is keeping more than half the world in quarantine.

PCR, or polymerase chain reaction, is “the primary instrument for testing this virus,” Millman said. The technology takes genetic material from a nasal swab and amplifies it, building up enough of a quantity for technicians to get a measurable result.

When DNA and other chromosomes are stained with a material that fluoresces, Chroma’s filters make them visible in color.

“There are variants on the theme, having to do with imaging, quantitativeness and automation, but PCR is the umbrella technology,” he added. “The demand for that instrument has grown dramatically. The demands on the part of the companies that make that instrument has grown dramatically. And the demands on us, by those companies, has increased dramatically just the last three weeks.”

In terms of dollars, Millman estimated that the COVID-19 virus will add about $2 million more to the employee-owned company’s bottom line.

Read the full article in Vermont Business Magazine.