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PASADENA, Calif.—Nanostream Inc., a provider of micro parallel liquid chromatography tools, announced in late July a new service division that seeks to develop customized screening assays for its biotech and pharmaceutical customers. Concurrently, the company announced the hiring of screening veteran Jonas Ekblom as COO and the man in charge of developing the service offering.
"With any product, as it matures and you get more and more customers, they start to come to you with problems they want you to solve," says Steve O'Connor, Nanostream's CEO. "Because of this, we saw that we needed to become a full solution provider and that meant providing assay development."
The service offering is centered on the company's flagship product, the Nanostream LD, a separation-based assay detection system which can provide screening ranging from target characterization through lead optimization.
Ekblom most recently worked at Invitrogen, but has
extensive screening experience from previous stints at Pharmacia, Sequenom and Biovitrum. He says he jumped at the chance to head up the new division based on how impressed he was with the Nanostream technology.
"If we had access to technology like this when I was working at Biovitrum, there is no question I would have used it," Ekblom notes. "Because of the design of the product, assays that may have taken months to develop can now be done in days or even hours."
With such significant potential time savings, it's natural to wonder if Nanostream customers would even need the service. But O'Connor says that there are a couple of reasons why they have seen strong interest for companies to farm out the assay development to Nanostream.
"One of the problems they bring to us is that their work is very erratic," O'Connor says. "Just because they need to do 25 assays a year doesn't mean they are all spread out. If a company needs to develop five assays all at once and can only do three then they can transfer that work to us. It's not the robots that are the bottlenecks in these cases, it is the assays."
But it goes a little deeper than that for Nanostream, Ekblom contends, noting that the Nanostream platform is particularly adept at performing difficult-to-execute assays, such as working with enzyme with low kinetic activity.
"In principal, we are available to provide any service our customers want," Ekblom says. "But you are not going to see us with a menu of specific targets, because there are plenty of others doing that and we don't think that is where we are competitive. Our intention is to be a provider of premium custom assay development services specifically focused on challenging assays."