UK-based TTP LabTech this week announced the further expansion of its US facilities in Cambridge, Mass. The company is planning to recruit sales and service personnel, according to Jas Sanghera, TTP LabTech’s commercial director.
Sanghera told CBA News this week that a factor in the company’s decision to expand its US footprint was strong sales for the latest version of its Acumen Explorer platform, the Acumen eX3, which launched last fall (see CBA News, 9/22/06).
Since then, sales of the Explorer platform have increased 18 percent, Sanghera said, noting that the company did not expect sales to take off as quickly as they did.
According to Sanghera, the US is TTP’s biggest market, with about 60 percent of sales going to US-based customers.
“Given the number of platforms already sold, and with the sales increasing so rapidly, we felt that it was time we had a US office,” Sanghera said. “We are already looking to expand our US facilities, even though we’ve only had them for about six months.”
Initially, the company plans to hire more staff, rather than move to a larger facility, Sanghera said. Current staff includes Ben Schenker, US sales and support manager, and Doug Mann, field service engineer, who are both based out of the Massachusetts office.
Sanghera predicted that the number of employees at the Massachusetts office would increase to about six by the end of the year. For now, the company is looking to hire some admin people, some more sales staff, and some more tech support staff, he said.
When asked if the company has ever considered establishing a foothold on the West coast, Sanghera said that the company is looking to increase the number of service support engineers in that region, but has not yet set a target date for a West coast office.
“Within the last 18 months to two years, TTP LabTech has increased its selling activity in the biotech sector. A huge amount of activity in that sector occurs on the West coast,” he said.
Sanghera said that the company has placed approximately 30 instruments with customers on the West coast. While this includes several Acumen Explorer systems, the bulk of these sales are for its Mosquito liquid handling platform.
Sanghera said that TTP currently handles all West coast sales from its base in the UK.
In addition to its US activities, the company is looking to expand its footprint in Asia and the Pacific Rim. It plans to open an office in China “within the next few weeks,” Sanghera said. The company currently has collaborations in India, Singapore, Australia, and Japan.
Although the company is trying to expand worldwide, over the next three to four years, it believes that the majority of its business will continue to come from the US, said Sanghera.
TTP LabTech is an employee-owned company. Revenue for its most recent fiscal year, which ended in April, was $23 million, and the firm realized a profit of $5 million. Over the last three years, the company has experienced revenue growth of about 25 percent per year.
According to Sanghera, the Explorer platform represents about one-third of TTP’s product business. The Explorer represented about 15 percent of sales three years ago. Since launching the eX3 last year, Explorer sales increased 18 percent, he said.
Sanghera said that he expects the company to sell at least twice as many Explorer units this year as it did last year. Prior to last year, sales were holding fairly steady.
“We are already looking to expand our US facilities, even though we’ve only had them for about six months.”
The company is now reinvesting its profits into developing next-generation platforms, which it hopes to launch within the next few years, said Sanghera.
Sanghera attributed the recent spike in sales to increasing interest in cell-based assays. “Before, companies focused more on research, but now they are really focusing on compound screening, and making it suit their purposes,” he said.
In terms of the Acumen Explorer, Sanghera said he thinks that the market has finally caught up with the technology. The company has had the basic technology for quite a long time, he said, but companies are now under increasing pressure to screen larger and larger numbers of compounds using cell-based assays. They want to use 384- or 1,536-well plates, screen them quickly, and screen the entire well, he said.
There are many advantages in doing that, Sanghera said, but one of the limitations of imaging systems is that they are very slow. People tend to take little samples out of each well and miss a lot of important information.
The Acumen Explorer addresses this challenge by offering the object recognition capabilities of CCD-imaging systems through its whole-well scanning techniques, while sporting the fast read times of bulk fluorescence readers. The platform also offers sub-cellular resolution of individual cells, but doesn’t acquire actual images, allowing for increased throughput and decreased data-analysis bottlenecks.
TTP LabTech is also moving forward in several collaborations with cell-based assay reagent vendors, Sanghera said, though he said the company would not be able to disclose further information about these partnerships until the fall.