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Integrated Micro-Chromatography Systems

  • sam patrick posted an article
    Enzyme and protein biotech leader creates, manufactures, distributes next gen products see more

    South Carolina’s Integrated Micro-Chromatography Systems, Inc. (IMCS), a leader in recombinant enzymes and micro-chromatography technologies, was awarded $1.8 million for Phase II of its Fast-Track Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant from the National Institutes of Health/ National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIH/NIGMS).

    Combined with earlier SBIR funding, the grant will provide scientists access to affordable gangliosides that aid in developing therapeutics and diagnostics for neurological diseases including Huntington's Disease, Parkinson's Disease, and Alzheimer's Disease.

    The NIH/NIGMS previously awarded IMCS a 4-year, $2.56 million Fast-Track Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) grant to expand the glycan toolkit and build an extensive array of sialoglycans that advance glycobiology-related research. The combined Fast-Track grants for the projects now exceeds $5.25 million. These projects will provide the scientific community access to affordable, easy-to-use reaction kits to facilitate synthesis of various glycans to advance research into potential diagnostics and therapeutics for neurodegenerative diseases.

    The SBIR project is headed by L. Andrew Lee, Ph.D., co-founder and Chief Scientific Officer of IMCS, along with Xi Chen, Ph.D., Professor of Chemistry at the University of California, Davis. The STTR project is in collaboration with Hai Yu, Ph.D., Project Scientist at the UC-Davis.

    Glycobiology, the study of the biological impact of sugars, has gained momentum in recent years. The surfaces of viruses, bacteria, and cells of our bodies are decorated with unique sugars or glycans. Some viruses and bacteria can exploit glycans to wreak havoc on our bodies, while a lack of glycans can result in disease progression. Studies suggest that modifications to certain glycans in molecules related to the brain are implicated in the onset and progression of neurodegenerative diseases.

    To date, the high cost of reagents and materials needed for glycobiology research have contributed to few tools to study glycans. Glycan-modified cell membranes (glycolipids) and gangliosides (a component of brain matter critical to research) must be harvested from pigs, sheep, and cows as there is currently no cost-effective manufacturing process. The biosynthetic manufacturing technology used for these projects will result in animal-free gangliosides.

    Matthew Macauley, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Chemistry at the University of Alberta, is eager to access significant quantities of gangliosides. "Some experiments with glycolipids are cost-prohibitive, but scalable and facile access to glycolipids would make such experiments financially feasible,” he noted.

    While not involved in the grant, Dr. Macauley’s lab studies glycan-binding proteins called Siglecs and their impact on disease states such as Alzheimer’s. Noting that commercially available glycolipids do not capture the diversity needed in research, he notes that reaction kits funded by the grant could be “a tremendous help for a lab that doesn't have expertise with glycan synthesis and doesn’t want to invest in getting all these enzymes expressed.”

    Research reported in this press release was supported by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences of the National Institutes of Health under Award Numbers R44GM139441 and R42GM143998. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.

    About IMCS

    Integrated Micro-Chromatography Systems, Inc is a privately held biotechnology company that strives to address the growing needs of clinical and research laboratories through innovative technologies and custom solutions designed to increase testing efficiency. IMCS creates, manufactures, and distributes next-generation biotechnology products to clinical and forensic toxicology, academic research facilities, US Government agencies, and health science companies around the world.

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    IMCS growing into new space, adding positions see more

    Compliments of Columbia Regional Business Report

    An Irmo-based biotechnology company is investing $4.1 million to expand its Richland County operations in a move expected to create 31 jobs during the next five years.

    Integrated Micro-Chromatography Systems Inc. creates, manufactures and distributes products and services for clients including clinical and forensic toxicology labs, academic research facilities, federal government agencies and health science companies. In January, the National Institutes of Health awarded the company a $900,000 Small Business Innovation Research Fast-Track grant.

    “Over the past several years, IMCS has experienced considerable success as a part of the Richland County business community,” Andrew Lee, IMCS CEO, said in a news release. “The tax incentives provided by the county will allow us to continue investing in people, capital equipment and facilities to expand our company and increase economic development in the county.”

    Richland County Council approved a special source revenue credit to reduce property taxes for IMCS by 35% over a 10-year period.

    “County Council is always eager to support growing businesses in Richland County, and it is especially exciting to watch a company like IMCS get its start here and achieve so much,” Paul Livingston, county council chair, said. “The investment and new jobs IMCS is bringing to our community will benefit our residents and are evidence of the type of success businesses can achieve here.”

    IMCS’ enzymes are used in drug-testing labs, and drug discovery labs use the company’s micro separations products to discover antibodies that can be used to fight diseases such as COVID-19. IMCS is using the federal grant to scale up production of new enzymes that will be used to make therapeutic drugs for treating neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.

    The grant is funding research into the production of affordable gangliosides, biomolecules that contain sugars and a type of lipid called ceramides and play critical roles in various biological processes. 

    In addition to its headquarters in Richland County, IMCS bought a second nearby facility in 2019 and anticipates purchasing a larger building in the county in the future, according to the release from Richland County. IMCS is combining the existing facilities to ramp up production and delivery of its products to pharmaceutical companies worldwide.

    “We were a USC IdeaLabs incubator company and have continued to grow in the county over the past seven years,” Lee said. “As we look to expand our operation to a third facility, it is only natural that we would want to do so here.”

    The new investment and jobs will be split between IMCS’ Irmo headquarters and the new facility. 

    Founded in 2013 by three Ph.D. scientists from the University of South Carolina, IMCS now has 40 full-time employees, with 600 clients in every U.S. state and in 15 countries.

  • sam patrick posted an article
    IMCS of Irmo turning heads see more

    Compliments of Post and Courier Columbia, SC

    In an unassuming whitewashed brick building within an Irmo office park, a biotechnology startup born out of the University of South Carolina now finds itself breaking down barriers that have held back scientific research into treatments and cures of neurodegenerative diseases.

    IMCS, short for Integrated Micro-Chromatography Systems, Inc., got its start engineering and producing enzymes, which speed up chemical reactions in the body, like those that break down food during digestion, to make corporate drug testing faster and more accurate.

    Now the biotech firm, which has grown its staff threefold in the last five years, is putting enzymes to work aiding in scientific advances to treat diseases from Alzheimer’s to Parkinson’s, as well as some cancers.

    Our brains are largely made up of sugar and fat groupings, called glycolipids, which aid in brain function. It’s a chemical reaction caused by enzymes that create them.

    When it comes to the progression of neurological diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, scientists have found the loss of such complex chemicals and the enzymes that make them impacts neurological function. With generation of these chemicals, mutations also can occur, causing other neurological problems.

    Being able to simulate this at the lab level will allow scientists to see how the process changes and reacts when new treatments are introduced. But making such compounds to study their function has been difficult.

    “Because it’s a newly developing field, scientists need the enzymes to study it,” said IMCS Chief Scientific Officer Andrew Lee. “But those enzymes can be so expensive.”

    That’s where IMCS comes in.

    The scientists at the biotechnology firm are partners with University of California, Davis on a $900,000 National Institutes of Health grant meant to bridge the funding gap. They’re looking for a faster, more cost-effective way to make enzymes and the the sugary compounds that make up our brains, more broadly available and therefore more affordable to researchers working to combat neurological diseases, as well as viruses and bacterial infections.

    Ronald Schnaar, a professor of pharmacology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, likened the project to building Legos. While the scientists aren’t the ones developing cures, they are creating the molecular building blocks, a library of tools, that could be used in such research. 

    “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.