The Health Profilers: Berlin and Brandenburg’s state laboratory, Landeslabor Berlin-Brandenburg (LLBB), is strengthening Adlershof’s analytics know-how with 380 additional employees

30. April 2019

The Health Profilers

Berlin and Brandenburg’s state laboratory, Landeslabor Berlin-Brandenburg (LLBB), is strengthening Adlershof’s analytics know-how with 380 additional employees

LLBB-Direktor Norbert Buchholz © WISTA Management GmbH

LLBB Director Norbert Buchholz is happy about the new domicile. Credit: © WISTA Management GmbH

Lab analysts often work in the background. The importance of their activities for the future of humanity, however, is becoming increasingly apparent in many areas of the economy. Whether you look at the environment, pharmacy, raw materials, energy and materials, or food – testing and analysis have become indispensable. With 100 companies and research institutes working in the field, Adlershof has become one of the primary hubs for the analytical sciences. The newest asset of the site is the LLBB, Berlin and Brandenburg’s state laboratory, and its 380 employees.

Right from the start, the current director of the LLBB, Norbert Buchholz, is very clear about the differences to other analytics providers: “We don’t do research, we only offer expertise. We provide findings, test results, and reports. As a government facility, we work economically but on a non-profit basis.” The LLBB’s main customers are the governments of Berlin and Brandenburg. The lab is always busy dealing with cut foodstuffs, feed and fertilisers in agriculture, additives in cosmetics and tobacco, and counterfeit drugs. Moreover, its tasks include taking water samples from lakes, pools, drinking and groundwater, measuring particulate matter pollution and radiation, watching over genetic engineering, chemicals, and hazardous materials as well as animal epidemics and diseases that spread between animals and humans.

“Our goal is to keep people healthy,” says Buchhholz. Their range of tasks is as broad as the analysis procedures and lab facilities at their disposal. Food analysis, animal epidemics, and environmental samples make up the largest share.

Employees of the veterinary and food agencies gather and hand in samples from places such as supermarkets, butchers, and kebab joints. There is a current increase in food fraud, says Mike Neumann of LLBB. Cold-pressed olive oil, for example, is rarely actually cold-pressed and often diluted with rapeseed oil. Food for babies and young children frequently contain low-quality additives and coffee made of “100% Arabica beans” is likely to be cut with 10-30% Robusta. Even more dangerously, the LLBB deals with cut or counterfeited drugs like those involved in the recent cancer medicine scandal. This is what makes their independent analyses so important. Buchholz: “Black sheep who seek profit with criminal energy are everywhere. We have to be technically and professionally well-equipped to prevent this from happening.”

Animal protection and animal health are also very important. Neumann: “If an animal was poisoned, for example, we look at the causes. We also examine cadavers to find out whether they were killed by wolves, or, say, birds of prey.

The LLBB sites in Invalidenstraße, Potsdam, and Kleinmachnow have now been merged in Adlershof, creating significant synergies. “It was my wish to come here. We are modernising our lab management system, moving away from paper towards a new institutional culture. No work silos at each site, no doing the work twice, more cooperation and sharing of equipment,” says Buchholz. Food chemists, vets, biologists, lab staff, pharmacists, chemists, and many more work together across divisions under one roof. “We are eager to network with our neighbours, share know-how and methods, open our house for events, and use our chance to tap into the local talent. Applicants should be interested in taking responsibility for public health and consumer protection.”

While the lab’s key activities are much the same, the pace is accelerating. This is leading to an increasing interest in novel analytics procedures and the LLBB ogling a new nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometer. In microbiology, too, the trend is moving away from classical methods towards mass analysis of chemical compounds using MALDI-TOF, a mass spectrometry method that combines matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization (MALDI) with time-of-flight (TOF) measurement procedures. Growing bacteria takes time. Using a laser, however, one aims the light source at the matrix, destroys it, and quickly gains information on the bacteria inside.

The projects are also becoming increasingly political. The LLBB is looking closely at school meals as well as Berlin’s emergency water supply or the low water in the Elbe. “Generally, water will play a growing role in the next few years,” say Buchholz and Neumann.

By Kathrin Reisinger for Adlershof Journal

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