Written by Kelly Stincer.
Scientist Dr. J.D. Kittle, Jr. understands the life-changing impact of developing biomedical technologies to accurately diagnose and treat diseases. He also knows that pharmaceutical companies often hit roadblocks while developing new products. The challenges can be difficult to overcome and often prevent products from ever making it to the market.
Kittle established Molecular Technologies Laboratories (MTL) in Athens, Ohio, to focus on engineering bacteria and designing synthetic DNA to help companies solve issues that are holding a product back. MTL acts as an extension of a biotech company’s research and development team, providing custom solutions at any point in the process. For example, Sutro Biopharma needed a specific type of bacteria to use in their production of antibodies for cancer treatment. MTL was able to successfully create the bacteria in their lab, allowing the company to move forward with the product. Another customer, FSC, was working on a device that detects pathogens. The company enlisted MTL’s help in the very early stages of product development to help create the initial concept and technology.
“We succeed by improving other companies’ products,” said Kittle, MTL co-founder and CSO. “It’s a different way of looking at the biotech business because our end goal is not to push a product out to the market. MTL creates value by developing diagnostic and therapeutic products that work. Then our customers take on manufacturing, distribution and sales.”
MTL works in three major ways. First, the company creates new diagnostic tools or finds new applications for tools already under development. MTL also takes therapeutic concepts, like a molecule or antibody, and develops them into a viable product for consumers. Finally, MTL supports product development by taking on certain scientific tasks that a company chooses to outsource.
When Kittle and his partners started the business, he already had Sutro on board as a customer, having consulted for them for several years. His existing network helped him create a founding team of scientists and biochemistry experts, and they began developing business plans that supported their ideas with facts and figures for prospective clients.
Kittle says access to labs and facilities was crucial to getting MTL off the ground. The Ohio University Innovation Center, a southeast partner of Ohio Third Frontier, provided the facilities, enabling Kittle and his team to set up a working lab within a week of forming the business. TechGROWTH Ohio, another Ohio Third Frontier partner, supported MTL by creating a market study and providing mentorship in areas such as government compliance and business development.
The ability to attract world-class talent and retain those employees has been key to MTL’s success. Kittle says he was able to build his team of scientists thanks to the universities, healthcare systems and research organizations in Ohio.
“We are focused on product development, and the MTL team needs to be able to create value for our customers,” said Kittle. “Our talented scientists help pharmaceutical companies around the world develop therapies that change lives, and they are doing that from our labs right here in Athens.”