Origins, Acquisitions and Growth
Blog Apr 01, 2015
Malvern Instruments’ 2014 acquisition of MicroCal added industry-leading microcalorimeters to the company’s portfolio, further extending its range of analytical solutions for the pharmaceutical industry into drug discovery. At Pittcon 2015 Malvern launched two new-generation isothermal titration calorimeters.
Business Development Director Duncan Roberts discusses the company’s evolution from its origins as a particle measurement company in the 1970s to the global organization that today provides a wide range of physico-chemical characterization techniques used in many different industry sectors and applications, and puts the new microcalorimetry systems in context.
AM: Please tell us a little about Malvern’s origins.
DR: Malvern’s business began in the early 1970s in the town of Malvern in the UK. Originally built around a number of techniques that came out of the nearby Royal Signals and Radar Research Establishment, the company became focused on particle measurement towards the end of that decade. This was initially as a result of developing dynamic light scattering technology for submicron particle size measurement. Then the advent of new technology, including high power lasers, personal computers and advanced algorithms, made the technique of laser diffraction possible. As a result particle size analysis became much more accessible and routine, allowing it to be more widely used in the development and quality control of particulate materials.
Malvern’s business grew rapidly and later diversified, to a point today where Malvern provides physico-chemical measurement solutions that are used in characterizing a wide variety of materials, from the study of biomolecular interactions through to determining the size, morphology and chemical identity of many different types of particle. We are equally at home, for example, supporting the measurement of different types of cement as we are developing instruments that meet the rapidly evolving analytical challenges of those working in biopharmaceutical development.
AM: Malvern has made a number of acquisitions since 2000. What have been the main driving forces?
DR: Malvern’s expansion relies both on continued organic growth and growth by acquisition. Significant market drivers include the increasing development and application of unique nanomaterials and the pharmaceutical industry’s major focus on the development of biotherapeutics alongside more traditional small molecule drugs. Fundamentally though, we want to offer our users a range of complementary technologies and instrumentation that provide more detailed insight into their materials and processes.
Looking back over our acquisitions, the addition of rheometers in 2003 complemented our particle characterization technologies, giving customers access to measuring the bulk properties of particulate suspensions such as emulsions and polymers. By moving into Gel Permeation Chromatography/Size Exclusion Chromatography GPC/SEC with the acquisition of Viscotek, we extended our abilities to characterize polymers and proteins, and we have this year launched the new OMNISEC GPC/SEC platform. In 2006 the acquisition of Spectral Dimensions added imaging capabilities that are now evident in products such as the Morphologi G3-ID, where Morphologically Directed Raman Spectroscopy provides a valuable tool in understanding the component specific particle size and particle shape distributions of materials. This is finding particular application in the pharmaceutical industry. Later acquisitions have focused more on the life sciences to meet the emerging needs of biopharmaceutical development. These include NanoSight Nanoparticle Tracking Analysis (NTA), Archimedes Resonant Mass Measurement and most recently, the market-leading MicroCal business.
DR: Our ability to respond appropriately to major shifts in the pharmaceutical industry continues to be critical for our business. Patent cliffs and lifecycles hugely affect the pharmaceutical industry so anything that suppliers can do to help the research-based pharma companies reduce time to market and improve product performance will support them in maximizing ROI. Generics manufacturers face some different challenges and the ability to deformulate and then re-develop is important, and requires a specific analytical tool kit.
The more recent shift towards the development of biologics, an area of focus that is experiencing sustained and resilient growth, has generated a whole new set of often complex and incompletely-defined analytical requirements. At Malvern we are focused on understanding how the tools we already offer can be applied to that process, as well as developing technologies and systems that meet some highly specific needs.
AM: What are the major drivers in 2015?
DR: We operate across many industries, each of which has its own pressures, but concentrating here on the pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical industries, many of the drivers remain the same as before. With some of our newest products we have focused on biotherapeutics and on trying to help users understand more than simply what size molecule they are working with. Aggregation is a critical problem at all stages of biopharmaceutical development and is important in determining whether a molecule can be formulated effectively for efficient delivery as a therapeutic agent. We are continuing to build an analytical toolkit that meets the varying needs at different stages of the discovery, development and production process. New tools such as the Zetasizer Helix, which combines dynamic light scattering and Raman spectroscopy, are helping not only to detect aggregation but also to provide valuable insight into its causes and how it might be prevented.
Most recently, by acquiring MicroCal we have added the techniques of Isothermal Titration Calorimetry (ITC) and Differential Scanning Calorimetry (DSC) to our portfolio. ITC fundamentally measures the binding ability of molecules and is an essential tool in small molecule drug discovery, as well as having research applications in the understanding and regulation of biological pathways. DSC is used to characterize the stability of a protein or other biomolecule directly in its native form and has widespread application in research pharma companies and also developers of biosimilars where there is a need to ensure the production of bioequivalent materials.
AM: How do the new MicroCal products move forward the technology already available?
DR: We have introduced two new ITC systems - the Malvern MicroCal PEAQ-ITC and the fully automated Malvern MicroCal PEAQ-ITC Automated. ITC has become an essential tool in drug discovery and critical to our new systems is a completely redesigned software package. This brings intuitive operation to the systems and adds automated data analysis. What this means in practice is that even non-expert users in busy labs can run samples and interpret the data with confidence. Greater automation also offers quicker screening, faster hit validation and improvements to laboratory efficiency. Malvern also remains the only producer of a fully automated ITC system.
You can find out more here www.malvern.com
Duncan Roberts was speaking to Anna-Marie MacDonald, Editor for Technology Networks.