Fall 2013 Newsletter
Fall 2013 Newsletter
Dec. 12, 3:00–5:00 p.m.
Sheraton Hotel, Burlington VT
your calendar to attend Research in Your Backyard and learn more about the clinical research conducted in Vermont. The event will explore the impact of clinical trials on medicine, our economy, and the bioscience research environment. It is sponsored by the VBSA, UVM College of Medicine, and Fletcher Allen Health Care.
Thursday October 3, 5–7 pm, Das Bierhaus
Network and unwind with your colleagues at Das Bierhaus, 175 Church St. in Burlington. These events are very informal. Whether you’re new to the Vermont biosciences community or want to catch up with old acquaintances—this is your chance to hang out with other people who are interested in bioscience.
VBSA: Connect With Us
Consultants—Tap Into Our Network
We’re planning to add a new section to our website that lists Vermont-based bioscience consultants. Join the VBSA and tell us about your services.
Join the VBSA
Expand your professional network and keep current on news and opportunities in bioscience right here in Vermont. Tiered membership dues for businesses, individuals, educational and public service organizations are available and membership is free for students and teachers at the elementary and high school levels.
Check our website for more on the benefits of joining the VBSA and to sign up. (http://vtbiosciences.org/join)
THANK YOU to our Renewing Members and Sponsors
To the businesses and organizations who have recently renewed their membership—Thank you for supporting the bioscience industry in Vermont.
Big thanks as well to our sponsoring organizations.
Investing in Application Support Pays off for Chroma Technology
How much effort should a bioscience company expend in application support? What if more than half of customer queries aren’t even about the products you sell, but involve related equipment, basic techniques, and system design?
For Chroma Technology Corporation the answer seems to be ~10%. That’s the percentage of their 100+ employees who man telephones and email addresses to field inquiries from scientists about their optical filters & filter sets. Their manager is Michael Stanley—equal parts scientist, teacher, and gear-head. He explains that Chroma actually saves money by putting so much effort and staff time into application and customer support. The savings come from minimizing returns and replacements, but Chroma also reaps the less tangible benefits of their well-earned reputation as a trusted resource in designing and troubleshooting fluorescence detection systems.
Stanley joined the company in 1998, seven years after it was founded; he was employee #28. At the time, he was the only employee with a PhD degree, (he is pretty sure that his academic pedigree got him the job). Although he was originally hired to conduct R+D alongside the team of engineers designing ever more sophisticated filter technologies, he quickly found that his talents could be put to better use educating customers to select and use their filters properly. Chroma has always had a return policy that Michael describes as “way beyond anything LL Bean ever dreamed of”, and he quickly realized that many, if not most, of the scientists using Chroma’s optic filter products did not really understand how to effectively “see” fluorescence or the details of how microscopes’ optical filter sets work. In the early days, Chroma replaced many filters and filter sets that were not defective, but were either being used incorrectly or were not well suited for the application. Michael set about changing that—he found himself explaining the basics of fluorescence detection and filter technologies by phone and email, and soon he was invited to deliver talks and training sessions. He contributed to customers’ scientific progress, while saving Chroma thousands (and thousands) of dollars in product replacements. Over the years, this focus on application support has become a hallmark of Chroma’s business model.
When six former Omega Optical employees opened the doors of Chroma Technology Corporation in 1991, they offered world class filter design and computer-controlled manufacturing. They could produce optical filters inexpensively, with quality and uniformity that far surpassed anything available at the time. Chroma filters, as Michael describes, are very effective at blocking unwanted fluorescence wavelengths, thereby making it possible to see even very low levels of fluorescence from the wavelength of interest. Most are used in microscopes; other major applications are in flow cytometry and fluorescence plate reader optical systems. Optical filters for absorption and astronomy applications also constitute a small piece of Chroma’s business. Although they continue to push the boundaries of coating technology—most recently with magnetron-sputtered optics—in the past several years, the technological advantages that launched Chroma to a market-leading position have become less pronounced. Chroma’s reputation for quality and no-holds-barred customer support are now even more important in helping them to retain their position as the major supplier of optical filters to microscope manufacturers, and perhaps more importantly, as a respected scientific resource.
In Vermont, Chroma may be better known for its employee ownership model and epic legal battle with the founders’ former employer, than it is for high-quality scientific products. Its location in Southern Vermont (Rockingham/Bellows Falls) makes it a challenge to network and collaborate with the bioscience community that is centered in Chittenden County. In fact, their location presents a somewhat different set of challenges for recruiting and retaining employees than those faced by companies in the Burlington area. Despite their physical distance from Vermont’s bioscience hub and their close proximity to commerce-friendly New Hampshire, however, Chroma Technology is a staunchly Vermont company. When faced with the choice to move either to their current location in Vermont or to a New Hampshire business park with attractive incentives, Chroma employee-owners voted to stay in Vermont. But it was a close call. In fact a simple vote count would have moved the company to New Hampshire. But major decisions in this employee-owned company are made by share-vote. Employees accrue shares each year they are employed by Chroma and the remaining company founders are also major shareholders; more shares means a weightier vote. When the issue was put to a formal vote by share-count, the Vermont location won out. With its culture of collaborative problem-solving, environmental sensitivity, and employee-owner governance, Chroma Technologies embodies the Vermont brand, all while advancing science with its high quality fluorescence filter systems.
Do you have a great idea for an SBIR phase I or II grant application, but don’t have the equipment and or facilities to show feasibility? VT EPSCoR (Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research) wants to help. They’re offering awards of up to $5,000 to Vermont based businesses through their Use of Facilities for Private Sector program. With a rolling deadline and a short, direct application process, this is an excellent opportunity to take advantage of the research facilities available at the University of Vermont.
For more information:
BioTek Instruments announced their new new direct sales and service organization in Tokyo. BioTek Japan opened its doors July 1, 2013. Read the press release.
News from UVM
Environmental Exposures and Breast Density
Recent research by Brian Sprague, Ph.D., University of Vermont assistant professor of surgery, and colleagues at the University of Wisconsin, sheds light on a potential correlation between chemicals commonly found in the environment and mammographic breast density, which is associated with a higher risk for breast cancer.
“We wanted to find out if people with different exposure levels had signs of higher or lower risk,” explains Sprague, who works in UVM’s Office of Health Promotion Research and is a member of the Vermont Cancer Center.
Read the story.
Transatlantic Team Examines Nerve Activity and Brain Blood Flow
UVM Distinguished Professor and Chair of Pharmacology, Dr. Mark Nelson and collaborator Anne Joutel, M.D., Ph.D., of the University of Paris head a network of excellence to study “Pathogenesis of Small Vessel Disease of the Brain” thanks to a multi-million dollar grant from the LeDucq Foundation. The network is condicting scientific research to identify the genes driving a rare genetic disorder involving the brain’s small blood vessels called CADASIL – an acronym for Cerebral Autosomal Dominant Arteriopathy with Subcortical Infarcts and Leukoencephalopathy.
In reality, explains Nelson, the number of people suffering from the disorder, which causes multiple small strokes and leads to cognitive impairment and dementia, is relatively small (about one in 50,000 people are affected). However, non-genetic causes of small vessel disease (SVD) account for about 25 to 30 percent of ischemic strokes and are a leading cause of cognitive decline and disability. In studying small vessel physiology and pathophysiology in CADASIL, specifically the molecular mechanisms responsible for local control of blood flow in the brain, the team’s work will provide a window into the common denominators shared by all blood vessel problems in the brain, including hemorrhagic stroke, and the more common SVD.
Clinical Trials for a New Cholera Oral Vaccine at UVM
Absent for more than 100 years in the U.S., cholera continues to challenge public health officials worldwide, causing an estimated three to five million cases and a reported 100,000 to 120,000 deaths annually, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). The University of Vermont Vaccine Testing Center aims to help combat this worldwide threat by launching a new clinical trial to test an oral cholera vaccine, and hopes Vermonters will engage in the effort to control this global disease of poverty.
New Anti-Cancer Drug
Anti-cancer drug discovered from a collaborative research effort by The University of Vermont’s College of Medicine and the Department of Chemistry gains market access in France. Cell Therapeutics, Inc. today reported that the Transparency Commission (Commission de la Transparence or CT) of the French National Health Authority (Haute Autoritede Sante or HAS) has granted market access for the medicinal product PIXUVRI (pixantrone) as a monotherapy for the treatment of adult patients with multiply relapsed or refractory aggressive B-cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma (patients with aggressive B-cell NHL who failed 2 or 3 prior lines of therapy). The next and final step in France’s pharmaceutical reimbursement process is inclusion on the list of medicines approved for hospital use and subsequent publication in the Journal Officiel in France, which CTI now intends to pursue.