Things have been happening recently at SciLog, a manufacturer of automated liquid-handling equipment for protein purification.
In March the company moved to a larger building in Madison, WI. Then in August, it was acquired by Parker Hannifin, a global supplier of motion and control technologies.
According to Juliette Schick, Ph.D., CEO and president of SciLog, her company will allow Parker Hannifin to enhance its single-use capability by providing technologically advanced motion and control solutions. Dr. Schick adds that the company will continue to sell its own products, with SciLog's management team staying in place.
“[The acquisition agreement gives Scilog] access to global markets, distribution channels, and resources to maximize Scilog’s single-use product offerings and patent positions,” she says.
Juliette and Karl Schick started SciLog in 1990 in the basement of their home. Juliette, then a professor of business at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, performed an academic exercise that showed a need for laboratory liquid-handling equipment that could easily interface with printers, balances, sensors, and other devices.
Karl Schick, Ph.D., a biochemist and inventor, created the first automated liquid-handling instruments with user-friendly, embedded software.
“Back then, computers were DOS-based with limited memory, and instruments were difficult to interface. The idea of plug-and-play didn’t even exist for lab equipment,” says Juliette.
SciLog researchers wrote their own software to make lab equipment more productive and able to interface with printers, scales, and pressure sensors. The company’s first customers were automated laboratories at universities that performed polymer synthesis and food sampling and preparation in test labs.
Three Product Families
Today SciLog has three complementary product families—laboratory liquid-handling systems, GMP process-scale systems, and precalibrated, single-use sensors. SciLog’s lab systems automate high precision, liquid-handling applications, such as metering, dispensing, protein purification, filtering, and testing.
In response to customer requests, these lab systems were scaled-up to accommodate larger flow rates and integrated devices for feedback loops and automation. The result is the SciFlex and SciPure product lines, used for GMP liquid handling.
The third main area is single-use precalibrated sensors.
“The biotech industry has embraced single-use technology. They want closed systems to minimize contamination risk,” says Juliette.
SciLog offers disposable manifolds with sensors, tubing, connectors, bags, and filters that are gamma irradiated to insure sterility. In fact, the growth of single-use products spurred SciLog’s move to larger offices in March, according to Juliette.
A key feature of SciLog’s product philosophy is open architecture, which means customers can use filters, tubing, and other disposables made by various vendors. A number of other manufacturers of hardware and manifolds require customers to buy one type of filter, tubing, or bag.
“This doesn’t give customers the freedom to choose a source. They are married to one vendor, and if that vendor cannot deliver, production schedules can be upset,” Juliette points out, noting that open architecture eliminates supply chain risk and keeps production on schedule. Flexible open architecture design allows for the seamless addition and removal of components, and it offers an adaptable process flow design with plug-and-go operation, she adds.
New Products and Old Standbys
Juliette emphasizes that SciLog listens closely to its customers to design new products and accessories. The SciLog Weigh Station uses a fluid handling platform that permits customers to fill or empty single-use bags gravimetrically.
“Some of our customers indicated that they wanted something more,” says Juliette So SciLog developed multiple configurations with slide-in-place accessories, including filter holders, tubing holders, trays, and work platforms.
The Weigh Station platform supports multiple hanging bags and can be rolled around to easily move media from one location to another. When pumps are added, a complete, quantitatively monitored work station for single-use technology becomes available. “It’s really caught on because of the versatility, mobility, small footprint, and accessories we added,” says Juliette.
SciLog’s products largely focus on downstream purification applications. Now a new product line, called MabTech, targets upstream processes. MabTech manages, automates, and documents bioreactor feeding and recirculation tasks. Some applications, like generating high density cell cultures, may take weeks or months, and MabTech performs these long-term tasks with high precision, according to Juliette.
“MabTech starts with a client’s current cell culture systems, then enhances them. No major reinvestment is required to optimize what you have,” she says.
Although not new, SciFlex and SciPure products are aggressively priced workhorses, which provide automation and documentation. When paired with SciLog’s precalibrated, single-use manifolds, a mobile system with a compact footprint performs tangential flow filtration, normal flow filtration, and perfusions. A touch screen asks the operator questions specific to their process, and the answers given by the operator generate a flow path and programs that give complete process documentation for the user. “This is a device for process development and batch transfers,” says Schick.
A receptionist answers all phone calls and connects callers to a SciLog expert. There are no phone trees to navigate. “We pride ourselves in rapid response times,” explains Juliette.