TTP celebrates 20th Anniversary
its 20th birthday this year with its focus on innovation stronger
The technology innovation focus at TTP is hard to ignore with half of all profits going into R&D, almost four times the instrument industry norm. This level of R&D investment is only possible because the company is primarily employee owned. The unusual ownership set-up came about during the company's inception in 1987, when the world's stock markets crashed during the process of starting the company, and the investment funds that had been arranged fell through. This led to the founders remortgaging their homes and gave birth to the employee ownership ethos that has served the company well ever since. It also explains why the company is taking all 320 employees and their partners to a hotel in Paris for a weekend of celebrations later in the year! The company's customer base is spread out evenly across the western world, 25 per cent in the UK, 22 per cent in Europe, 21 per cent on North America and the remainder in the rest of the world. TTP Group consists of four parts, The Technology Partnership plc, TTP Venture Managers, Melbourn Science Park Ltd and TTP LabTech. The Technology Partnership plc focuses on technology development and licensing, with TTP Venture Managers investing in early stage science and technology companies. Melbourn Science Park runs the R&D campus near Royston which houses 20 companies including TTP's UK operations, Motorola's TTPCom Product Group and Velocity 11. TTP LabTech group has gained a reputation for developing cutting edge laboratory robotics and instrumentation for use in the pharmaceutical and life science laboratories. According to Dr Matthew Cook, TTP Labtech's commercial development manager, the group has achieved 24 per cent year on year growth over the past four years. Cook said that TTP LabTech's mission statement is "to provide practical and innovative solutions to the pharmaceutical and life science industries." This includes the development of process custom automation answers for difficult laboratory processes and new instruments such as the ChemScan RDI, an instrument that can detect a single bacterium in a glass of water, developed and manufactured for Chemunex. The ChemScan RDI won a Queen's award for Technological Achievement in 1999. "We have always strived to be at the leading edge of product development," said Dr Jas Sanghera, commercial director of TTP LabTech. TTP LabTech has developed a range of innovative laboratory products such as the Mosquito - a compact nanolitre liquid handling device that makes use of a continuous reel of disposable positive displacement micropipettes that guarantees no sample carry over from one disposable pipette to the next. Because the manufacture of the pipettes is so crucial and fiddly, TTP designed their own robotic 'breeder' production machines. The Mosquito is available in three formats: the HTS, which is designed for high throughput screening applications such as assay plate preparation or serial dilutions; the Crystal, an automated protein crystallography setups and additive screening; and the X1, a single tip version that offers precision sampling of individual sample wells. The company has also designed a microplate cytometer, the Acumen X3 screening system that combines the power of ultra high throughput, whole-well data collection with the ability to classify sub-cellular events. The Acumen X3 takes 10 minutes to scan a plate and incorporates three solid state lasers that can record fluorescence images to a level similar to that of a 20x microscope. The instrument contains three solid state lasers that raster across the plate and give 3D fluorescence intensity profiles that permit the calculation of fluorescence and morphology of objects. This has led to applications in cell cycle analysis, immunoassays and ß-lactamase reporter gene analysis as well as for studying stem cells and biomarker discovery, where the use of fluorescent antibodies can reveal if a cell is undergoing mitosis. To help combat the problem of finding and organising samples TTP designed the comPOUND sample storage and management system that offers a method of quickly cherry-picking microtubes from any location within a sample library. The system can hold up to 100,000 1.4ml tubes and can deliver selected microtubes to a laboratory bench up to 15m away from the parent module when combined with the comPANION delivery system. If the comPANION is multiplexed with four comPOUND modules the system can deliver 10,000 microtubes in 8 hours and can be easily automated as part of a secondary robot platform. In fact, parts of the system are being used in a new automated chemistry system (ACS) for an unnamed pharmaceutical client. The ACS has been designed to carry out unmanned standard solution phase organic synthesis for targeted drug library generation, with the ability to cool reactions to -80ºC and heat them using standard incubators as well as with microwave reactors. The system allows vessels and reagents to be transported round the automation benches and allows online sampling for delivery to HPLC (high performance liquid chromatography) or SFC (super critical fluid chromatography) instruments that can be coupled with various analysis devices. The system can also evaporate the solvents from samples as well as conducting solid phase extraction of samples from impurities with all process data being logged and the reaction vessels tracked to allow easy electronic notebook integration (ELN). Cook continued by saying that TTP had "built in some flexibility to the system to try to make the system 'plug and play' " so that new instruments could be swapped in as required.