Research lab explores the creation of new bioactive standards

Market assessment and grant funding support for new product and service development

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The Company

RLC Technology Ltd is an independent research and contract laboratory offering expertise in high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) and spectroscopy techniques to solve analytical and purification challenges. With a focus on developing and implementing alternative automated solutions their work supports a range of sectors from biotech, formulation, fine chemical and pharmaceutical companies.

What they do

The company is a unique mixture of commercial chemistry research and social enterprise. Their core skills are in the application of chromatograph and spectroscopic techniques to support in-house and client projects offering:

  • Contract support to manufacturers and research companies – including consultancy
  • Practical HPLC training courses – offering practical ‘hands-on’ courses for industrial clients

The company also plays an active role in the wider community by providing free practical STEM support to all schools & colleges in the UK.

The Challenge

RLC Technologies Ltd wanted to:

  • increase its share of the technical training market and
  • establish itself in a new niche market - creating purified standards for bioactive compounds that can be extracted from plant and algae. These standards can be used to confirm the identity and determine the % purity of the isolated compound. Currently these standards are very expensive.

    RLC Technologies believed that it could identify bioactive compounds requiring standards, produce those standards more quickly and thereby offer them for a better price than current suppliers. This is a global market with potential for both ‘off the shelf’ product and an ‘on demand’ standard production service – approximately 50% of drugs, approved over the past 30 years, are derived from natural plant/algae sources.

The company needed to investigate the potential market for both training and standards. If this work supported the development of the standards they needed to acquire new equipment. However, the company needed access to additional resource in order to be able to take this forward.

The Solutions

RLC Technologies applied for the following support from ERDF Smart Innovation and Networking for Growth (SING):

  1. Two Day Market Research
  2. The iNet in-house researcher was asked to investigate the following:

    • the potential size and growth of the HPLC/lab techniques training market. RLC Technologies wanted confirmation that their competitors only offer lecture-based courses making their practical ‘hands-on’ courses unique. They also wanted to explore current concerns about ‘skills shortages’ in the UK (especially post BREXIT)
    • the potential market and competition for ‘off the shelf’ HPLC standards for plant/algae bioactives.

    The Outcome

    The iNet in-house researcher carried out a two-day study addressing the following areas of interest:

    • UK STEM Skills Gap/Shortage
    • Laboratory Techniques and HPLC Training
    • Training, Membership Organisations and Approved Course Providers
    • Global Chromatography Market
    • Global Analytical Standards Market

    The resulting report indicated that the ‘HPLC standards’ sector is a high value and rapidly growing global market and that the key players in this market are based in the USA and Germany.

‘The report’ ….’was very useful - much more comprehensive than I anticipated. It helped to confirm some of the ideas/view I held, but also made me consider some other options going forward’

Mark Jones, Director - RLC Technologies Ltd on subject of 2 Day Research

  1. Grant funding
  2. RLC Technologies were convinced that, through innovative HPLC technology and automation, they could reduce the time and hence cost of isolating and purifying standards.

    Commercially available single mass spectrometer (MS) systems are typically used in conjunction with a single HPLC system (typical runs times between 5 to 20 minutes per sample). During the analysis, the MS is only collecting useful data over a period of less than 0.5 minutes (most of the HPLC analysis time includes the elution of peaks that are unrelated to the target compound). The R&D challenge was to develop a system that simultaneously connects multiple HPLC systems to a single MS without compromising data quality. This would make far better use of a high value piece of equipment and result in a significant increase in productivity.

    RLC Technologies applied for grant funding to support the purchase of the mass spectrometer to be used to develop and trial the system.

    The Outcome
    The mass spectrometer system, which was purchased with the support of the grant funding, has increased their productivity more than two-fold. They are currently developing a new prototype sampling interface that will facilitate sampling of crude reaction products – saving solvent, time and cost.

‘I'm amazed and impressed with the speed and efficiency of the whole process’

Mark Jones, Director - RLC Technologies Ltd on subject of grant funding
About the client

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RLC Technology Ltd
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