(EDITOR’S NOTE: T & T Scientific won the “Traction Award” at this year’s “Startup day Knoxville” event on Tuesday. The award is presented by the UT Federal Credit Union, and the article that follows was finalized ahead of the award presentation.)
By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA
One key indicator that a start-up is making progress is the fact that it outgrows its space, and that’s certainly the case with T & T Scientific.
The company, founded in mid-2015, recently expanded into a second office suite adjacent to its location on East Moody Avenue in South Knoxville. And, according to Sonny Harben, a key investor, that’s only an interim move as the company considers relocating to a 15,000-square foot research and manufacturing facility.
Graham Taylor, one of the Co-Founders, explained that T & T Scientific does not have adequate space at the Moody Avenue location to manufacture the largest of its currently planned series of NanoSizers, an automated extrusion system. That unit, which is custom-designed, will sell for about $250,000.
In addition, the much larger space will house the infrastructure needed for expansion into new sectors like pharmaceuticals, food, dietary supplements, and cosmetics. To enter those sectors, T & T Scientific needs to meet certification standards for both Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) and Quality System Regulations, and the new facility is a key component.
“We are focusing on the production side between drug design and clinical use,” Taylor says. “Our extrusion technology is really fast, convenient, and clean.”
The Chattanooga native joined with Nima Tamaddoni, the other Co-Founder, to launch T & T Scientific’s first product in March 2016. It was a cartridge that provided the world’s first single-use and fully assembled liposome extrusion system. Now known as the NanoSizerTM, it was a fully-assembled extruder that allowed researchers to save a significant amount of assembly time while also providing a contamination-free liposome extrusion system.
More recently, as noted in this teknovation.biz article from January of this year, the company has been making and marketing three smaller versions of automated NanoSizerTM extrusion equipment, each with distinctive features. They are:
- NanoSizerTMAUTO 1, particularly beneficial to researchers who are engaged in small volume testing of one to 10 milliliters;
- NanoSizerTMAUTO 10, a continuous extruder that is designed for volumes between 10 and 250 milliliters; and
- NanoSizerTMAUTO Plus that is a continuous extrusion platform for large scale, commercial operations like pharmaceutical companies manufacturing hundreds of liters.
“The new Auto 10 builds on the Auto 1,” Taylor explained, saying it “adds a lot of capabilities and competes with devices that sell for $50,000 or more.”
The automated extrusion platforms are just part of the start-up’s product expansion. Based on the company’s success in selling its extruders, T & T Scientific now is also selling pre-mixed liposome solutions as well as custom formulations.
“We are the only company covering the entire spectrum,” Tamaddoni proudly says, noting the size of the start-up compared to much larger players like Avanti Polar Lipids Inc. The Knoxville-based company is now on the radar as the Co-Founders learned at a recent national conference in San Francisco.
“People know who we are,” Taylor says.
The current product mix provides for considerable stability that any start-up needs.
T & T Scientific has nine patents, two trademarks, and 400 customers in 45 countries. It also has 30 new distributors in 25 of those countries with Australia, Japan and Korea being what Taylor characterized as “hot spots.”
The Co-Founders are continuing to explore growth areas like pursuit of Small Business Innovation Research grants. They have also submitted proposals for collaborative work to multiple pharmaceutical companies and continue to conduct research and publish papers.
“The market is there,” Taylor says. “People are doing things with extruders we had not considered.”
As far as Harben is concerned, T & T Scientific is a winner. “I’ve been the CEO or owner of seven different companies, and this one has the greatest potential of any I’ve been involved with.”