Iongate’s SURFE²R is up

IonGate taps Artel to spearhead adoption and application of SURFE²R technology in North America

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WESTBROOK, Maine—Less than six months after it announced the opening of its first sales office in North America, Frankfurt, Germany-based IonGate Biosciences GmbH announced it is teaming with Maine-based liquid handling company Artel to leverage Artel's market knowledge and its sales and service expertise to help broaden adoption of IonGate's SURFE²R technology in the United States and Canada.

IonGate's SURFE²R technology enables more effective research involving drug targets such as membrane transporters and ligand-gated ion channels. According to Wolfgang Lerch, managing director of IonGate and president of the U.S. operation, the label-free technology can provide researchers with a high-throughput tool for use both in screening and in performing ADME studies.

"What the technology does is measure transport activity in the membrane cells and it does this label free," says Lerch. "Until now there hasn't been any technology that could do this in high-throughput. There is no other method that measures the transporters label-free which provides results that are more biologically relevant."

Since SURFE²R is a relatively new technology, like many other new technologies before it, broad adoption can be slow. Lerch admits that right now, IonGate is still primarily selling to early-adopters, but he sees interest growing in transport proteins among researchers in the fields of cardiac, neurologic and metabolic disorders. And that is where Artel comes in.

"Artel has a strong presence in pharmaceutical companies that can benefit from SURFE²R," Lerch says. "In addition, they have the infrastructure and what is very important, the same attention to quality and service that we have at IonGate."
According to Kirby Pilcher, president of Artel, the similarity of the cultures of the two companies was what really sealed the deal.

"When we saw how sincere, hardworking and productive they are, it felt a bit like looking in the mirror," Pilcher says. "We saw it is a good company, turning out something that is leading in its class. It was our view there could be a market opportunity and we could help."

In IonGate, Pilcher saw the opportunity to do for researchers what Artel has been doing in liquid handling: provide a new tool to the researchers that would help them optimize their discovery and development processes.

"When it comes right down to it, Artel is not a liquid handling company, even though that is what we sell," Pilcher explains. "What we really are is more a quality process company, than we are a liquid handling company. We just happen to apply that focus to liquid handling."

The attention to engineering a quality process extends to the company's customers and it will be the same approach Artel takes when introducing the SURFE²R technology.

For Lerch, Artel's focus on applying the technology using a consultative, problem-solving approach with customers rang true. He is quick to point out that IonGate did not need to jump into an agreement with a U.S.-based partner right away.

"We knew that we only will have one chance to get this right," Lerch says. "We weren't looking for just another dealer for our products here and that's not what Artel was interested in either. This is really much more of a partnership than a distribution agreement.

A clear illustration of this point lies in the fact, that upon announcing the work it is doing with Artel, IonGate moved its U.S. office from Manhattan to a space within the Artel offices in Maine. Further, Artel and IonGate are currently in the early stages of developing a similar reciprocal agreement for IonGate to provide sales and service support to Artel in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, a region where it is not adequately represented, according to Pilcher.

Under the terms of the agreement, Artel will use its existing infrastructure to provide sales, marketing and service support to IonGate. Artel workers have been receiving education and training on the SURFE²R technology and, in time will have a dedicated service leader for the IonGate products. DDN

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