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New BioTechnology Drives Market for NanoLogix
HUBBARD, Ohio -- A biotechnology company based here has employed some of the latest technology and innovation that can, in extreme cases, make the difference between life and death.
NanoLogix Inc. specializes in the manufacture and packaging of Petri plates and diagnostic kits designed to detect threatening bacteria and other microorganisms more rapidly than traditional Petri culture technology, says its CEO, Bret Barnhizer.
"The Petri plates are our main items of sales right now," Barnhizer reports. "We're also working on the development of other diagnostic kits." The company manufactures 13 types of Petri plates and plans to add more, he says.
Barnhizer says two major innovations distinguish the company's products from others. One plate in particular, the Bio Nano Pore, or BNP, product uses a membrane sandwiched between two layers of agar that scientists use to grow bacteria samples.
Traditionally, samples are detected in Petri plates once they become visible, Barnhizer says. However, the membrane in the BNP plate acts as a platform that, after a given number of hours. is removed.
Once removed, the membrane is placed on a staining plate, he explains. The chemical on that plate then stains the membrane, revealing micro-colonies of bacteria or other organisms invisible through the standard method. "These are miniature versions of what you'd see on a standard plate,” Barnhizer notes.
Thus, the nature of the bacteria or specimen is identified much earlier than the traditional method.
The time needed to detect whether a person is infected by anthrax, for example, takes about six hours using the BNP method, where the standard procedure could take as long as 24 hours, Barnhizer reports.
"That could be the difference between whether someone lives or dies," he comments.
The second method his company pioneered is how the Petri plates are packaged, Barnhizer says.
Most companies in the field package their products by stacking Petri dishes atop one another and sliding them into a plastic sleeve that, on average, holds 10 at a time. Barnhizer patented a method in which the small dishes are stacked two-high in a flat, vacuum pack.
The result is that these Petri plates have a much longer shelf life than those shipped and packaged by standard means. Tests have found that the products packed this way have held their shelf life for two years when stored in cold temperatures, one year in room temperature.
Moreover, Barnhizer says, the packaging method the company uses greatly reduces the risk of the Petri plates breaking or being damaged in shipment.
Seven years ago, Barnhizer began transforming a mostly vacant pole building, once a kitchen and bathroom supply company at 843 N. Main St. in Hubbard, into a sleek laboratory and clean room.
Renovations to the building cost roughly $150,000, while another $300,000 was spent on buying new equipment.
In the clean room, all employees are required to wear coveralls, masks and gloves, as a sophisticated filtering system removes any foreign particles.
In the clean room, the company takes agar, that is, the substance analysts use to grow sample cultures, in a powder form and mixes it until it's liquid. The agar is then transferred into the Petri dishes via a hose pre-programmed to distribute 23 milliliters of the substance onto each plate, which are sealed from the top and bottom.
As the agar sets, it hardens to a gel. The plates are then vacuum-packaged and shipped out.
NanoLogix manufacturers "a few thousand" of these plates per day at its eight workstations, Barnhizer reports.
The CEO relates that the company has secured business with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and many other high-profile clients that he's not at liberty to identify. "We recently signed an agreement with a northeast Ohio grocery chain" to monitor food quality, he reports. "Large research labs are buying it, and different universities."
And, the company has been involved in at least six classified projects, Barnhizer says.
NanoLogix recently signed an international distribution agreement with Nasaem Al-Jazira Inc., headquartered in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The project was helped through the State of Ohio International Trade Assistance Center at Youngstown State University.
Barnhizer made a request to Gov. John Kasich's office before Christmas and inquired about help through the International Trade Assistance Center and its local representative, Mousa Kassis. The first year of sales of the five-year agreement is expected to yield about $900,000.
"They helped quite a bit," he says about ITAC. "I believe we'll be bringing an intern on from YSU during the summer through the program that ITAC sponsors."
NanoLogix, which employs 12, also distributes its products to other countries. "We've sold to Turkey, Europe, Mexico, Kuwait, Thailand and Singapore," Barnhizer reports.
Copyright 2014 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.
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