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February 26, 2020 | Tom Ballard

Knoxville start-up T & T Scientific increases sales 10X in last year

Not quite four and one-half years after starting T & T Scientific Corporation and roughly four years after launching their first product, Co-Founders Nima Tamaddoni and Graham Taylor are seeing significant growth.

“Our sales have increased 10X in the last year,” Taylor told us recently. “We have become a pharma manufacturing company and maybe ultimately a drug development company. We did not see that coming.”

We first spotlighted the start-up in this February 2016 article in soon after the two then doctoral students at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UTK) had won the top cash prize in the latest “Boyd Venture Fund Challenge” hosted by the Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. The company was founded with the goal of making lipids, liposomes and lipid nanoparticles research, development, and manufacturing more effective and efficient.

Since its launch, we have followed T & T Scientific’s progress as the company quickly brought to market its revolutionary NanoSizerTM extrusion product, captured the $5,000 grand prize as winner of the “Pitch Competition” during Knoxville’s fourth annual “Startup Day” in September 2016, developed and launched three different automated extrusion devices, and most recently moved into a 15,000 square foot building in North Knox County.

The new facility, which includes a 1,000 square foot clean room that has ISO ratings of 5, 7 and 8, has brought significant new opportunities to T & T Scientific. It now provides pharmaceutical products and contract services including lipid-based pharmaceutical technologies, design and formulation, research and development, manufacturing, and analytics. T & T Scientific supports these services in both pre-clinical and commercial finished products.

“We have six contracts with pharmaceutical companies for research and other consulting,” Tamaddoni says. “Our first client has achieved GMP, and we have four or five others in the pipeline.” GMP is a system for ensuring that products are consistently produced and controlled according to quality standards. It is designed to minimize the risks involved in any pharmaceutical production that cannot be eliminated through testing the final product.

“We learn a lot from these projects,” Tamaddoni adds.

T & T Scientific now employs six people full-time and another five part-time. The latest additions include a Director of Quality and a Director of Formulation and Manufacturing.

“We are willing to hire more people,” Tamaddoni says.

As far as the rapid growth, Taylor uses an old fishing adage: “We are catching them faster than we can string them.”

The two Co-Founders cite several important factors in their success. One was the money from early pitch events like the 2016 “Startup Day” in Knoxville. Another was the innovative extruder that established a brand image and gave them an early edge. The final critical factor was the interest and mentorship provided by Sonny Harben, a Knoxville businessman who was an early investor in T & T Scientific.

“His money was the least important to us,” Tamaddoni says of the unassuming Harben. “What was most important was his selfless care. Anytime we needed anything, he went relentlessly after it.” added, “Sonny just wants to help.”

What’s next of T & T Scientific? The skies look rosy. The start-up has clients in 50 countries, 12 mostly pending patents, and three trademarks. More important for the region, both Co-Founders are focused on keeping the company in Knoxville even as they continue to grow their company, particularly supporting pharma development coming out of Boston. They have some growth space in their facility that was unveiled just a year ago.

“We’re having fun,” Taylor says. “Our focus is on customer satisfaction, quality and compliance.”

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