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Upstate upsizes: New 14,000-square-foot facility strengthens company’s grip on contract kinase screening market
DUNDEE, Scotland—In early March, Upstate Group Inc. completed the expansion of its kinase screening and production facility here, more than doubling its previous size to meet demand for its services growing in a market where company officials say it captures more than 76 percent of the business.
The new 14,400-square-foot Fisher Building, named for Nobel Laureate Edmond H. Fisher, renowned for his discoveries of reverse protein phosphorylation, allows Upstate to provide a wider range of contract kinase screening services. It also frees up space in its previous 12,000-square-foot home for kinase production, development of novel assays and a distribution center for its products.
"We have built a significant business for kinase screening in less than five years," says Ian Ratcliffe, president of Upstate Group, a subsidiary of Serologicals Corp., based in Atlanta. "It's because we offer screening against a panel of 208 kinases — the 'gold standard' radiometric format — and because we have proven to our customers that we can perform their screening as well as or better than they would be able to do in-house."
Much of the Upstate's revenue growth over the past few years can be attributed to increases in both sales of reagents and panels from its kinase catalog and its contract screening services. 2004 revenue was $54 million, up from $42 million in 2003, with company forecasts predicting more than $80 million in 2005. Ratcliffe says demand is fueled by the fact that more than 25 percent of new drugs under development today are based on kinases. Upstate's commitment to providing these products and services, beginning with the opening of its facility here in mid-2000, is now bearing fruit.
But acceptance of the company's services wasn't immediate. "I think when we first opened here, we were getting very small projects from our customers to test us and see if we were any good," says Steve Davies, general manager of the kinase facility. "Now that we have gained customer confidence, they are giving us much more work and that is going hand-in-glove with the global move toward outsourcing [compound screening]."
For Upstate that means providing a state-of-the-art facility with the equipment and workers to perform a wide variety of screening projects. "We will work with our clients to create custom assays and screening," Davies says. "We will do everything from hundreds of thousands of compounds against one protein, to one compound against all 208 kinases. So with some, it is relatively easy to fire up the robot and work from the same 'soup', while other projects require a lot more time."
Because every project is different, it is hard for Davies to estimate how much the company has increased its screening capacity, although he and Ratcliffe both believe the Fisher Building will be able to handle the growing demand for Upstate's services for at least the next five years. In the meantime, the company plans to increase its workforce here more than 30 percent, increasing to about 100 employees by the end of 2005, up from the 76 currently working at the facility.
While kinase work will continue to be the company's focus, the new facility should allow for additional services, including work with GPCRs in the near future. Furthermore, the expanded production capabilities in the old facility allow the company to further strengthen its custom assay development services and products for researchers to use in-house.