“If you give us the pieces to build the Lego (structure), we can generate the tools to study anything from cell activity to testing potential therapeutics,” he said. “You can use this to build anything.”
Since Lee and two other USC scientists pooled their money in 2013 to form the company, IMCS has fine-tuned its enzyme into a molecular multi-tool with a broad range of research uses.
The company was profitable within a year and saw five years of double digit revenue growth, said Mark Hanna, chief revenue officer and co-founder of IMCS. It has 40 people in its employ now, including a dozen scientists, that have carved out a niche in the precision medicine world, serving 600 clients globally.
And they’ve gone from a USC incubator space to two buildings off Broad River Road in the Dutch Fork Business Park. It’s hard to imagine the buildings, tucked inconspicuously behind a Food Lion grocery store between a safety equipment supplier and a lawn fertilizer company, house a multi-million dollar research lab in doing molecular engineering more commonly associated with such hallowed institutions as Johns Hopkins and Harvard Medical.
When IMCS was getting its start, drug testing companies were using more crude enzymes. Through genetic engineering, IMCS made a better one that broke down the particles of blood and urine samples faster and gave a more accurate reading of the substances within. In particular, using prior testing methods, the illicit drug heroin could show up as morphine, giving a false negative.
Because of their work, the IMCS scientists learned how to clone and make large quantities of a whole host of lab-created enzymes, which will come in handy as new research buoys demand.
It’s advances in research techniques like these that made COVID-19 vaccines created by drug makers like Pfizer and Moderna the fastest ever developed.
Going back to its birthplace, the company also is working with USC on bettering the research process for virus strains, like those that produced the COVID-19 virus, isolating them more quickly and from a smaller sample size.
Enzymes also aren’t the only work IMCS does.
IMCS is finding success adding its own innovations to a common lab tool called a pipette tip.
The tips are used to measure and move liquidized samples from one container to another. But IMCS made it faster by adding a chemical-separating resin inside the tips themselves, reducing a step along with the chance for contamination and error.