Assay assistants

Nanostream creates new division to create customized assays

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PASADENA, Calif.—NanostreamInc., a provider of micro parallel liquid chromatography tools, announced inlate July a new service division that seeks to develop customized screeningassays for its biotech and pharmaceutical customers. Concurrently, the companyannounced the hiring of screening veteran Jonas Ekblom as COO and the man incharge of developing the service offering.

"With any product, as it matures and you get more and morecustomers, 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 neededto become a full solution provider and that meant providing assay development."

The service offering is centered on the company's flagshipproduct, the Nanostream LD, a separation-based assay detection system which canprovide screening ranging from target characterization through leadoptimization.

Ekblom most recently worked at Invitrogen, but has
extensivescreening experience from previous stints at Pharmacia, Sequenom and Biovitrum.He says he jumped at the chance to head up the new division based on howimpressed he was with the Nanostream technology.

"If we had access to technology like this when I was workingat 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 todevelop can now be done in days or even hours."

With such significant potential time savings, it's naturalto wonder if Nanostream customers would even need the service. But O'Connorsays that there are a couple of reasons why they have seen strong interest forcompanies to farm out the assay development to Nanostream.

"One of the problems they bring to us is that their work isvery erratic," O'Connor says. "Just because they need to do 25 assays a yeardoesn't mean they are all spread out. If a company needs to develop five assaysall at once and can only do three then they can transfer that work to us. It'snot the robots that are the bottlenecks in these cases, it is the assays."

But it goes a little deeper than that for Nanostream, Ekblomcontends, noting that the Nanostream platform is particularly adept atperforming difficult-to-execute assays, such as working with enzyme with lowkinetic activity.

"In principal,  we areavailable to provide any service our customers want," Ekblom says. "But you arenot going to see us with a menu of specific targets, because there are plentyof others doing that and we don't think that is where we are competitive. Ourintention is to be a provider of premium custom assay development servicesspecifically focused on challenging assays."

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