Interview - Joby Jenkins, Vice President for Business Development


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Whilst Joby Jenkins, our Vice President for Business Development was in China as part of the firefly launch - our team interviewed him to find out more about the advances in SPT Labtech and the launch of firefly into the genomics market.



What do you think SPT Labtech has gained the most in the Chinese market? What is your view on the prospects of the Chinese market?

I remember first coming to China back in 2005 actually and I've been visiting regularly ever since so I think very quickly we became a market leader in the air of structural biology around protein crystallization and more recently as the applications have grown and developed and our product ranges have grown and developed we've been able to serve the Chinese market more and more, and more thoroughly as the product ranges have evolved. The Chinese market is is very big very significant globally and we see the growth rates here are higher than most other markets around the world so it's a very important market for us and we're really pleased to be a really well established and leading brand in life science automation here. 

In recent years, gene sequencing has gradually become a high-profile topic in the field of science and technology and medical care. How does SPT Labtech, which has just entered this field, layout the Chinese market?

We don't feel we're particularly a new entrant, I think we've championed miniaturization of NGS library preparation for some years and you know what we're bringing to the market with firefly is a liquid handler that can serve a broader segment of that market and in the area of that market that currently historically we hadn't been able to serve with the very specialist miniaturized technologies that we had with mosquito and dragonfly. Now we have a system that's very open, open to different chemistries, the different chemistries that we see in China the different reagent kits that we get in in the western markets, very easy to program the software is very intuitive and user friendly and it allows end to end automation so higher throughputs so really it's a very different offering than other systems that are available on the market today. We feel it's one that's very applicable to the Chinese market particularly as throughputs in gene sequencing continued to go up and up and up, and the rate of which samples are getting sequenced and the need for higher throughput technologies to feed the higher throughput sequences is something that we really feel firefly address as well.

SPT Labtech has acquired many companies, such as Apricot Designs, BioMicroLab, etc., what impact have these acquisitions brought to the company's development?

They've really enabled us to grow more rapidly and announced it industry sector growth rates that's for sure, but more importantly that they've enabled us to better serve our customers and to give a broader range more of an end to end experience in terms of equipment for the lab so anything for sample preparation, be that low volume liquid handling, high volume liquid handling, dispensing, pipetting we really have a range of instruments as well as for sample preparation sample handling in terms of tube handling, tube sorting, tube labeling and storage. So we have now with the acquisitions a much broader range of instruments and also range of consumables with the acquisition of Quantifoil in Germany we now are leading supply of cryo-em grids so it's really quite a much more diverse in broad portfolio we can offer more of an end to end solution for our customer base globally.

What are the outstanding advantages and innovations of firefly compared to previous automated pipetting workstations?

firefly is a really innovative product even though it's combining previously existing technology such as an air displacement head and the positive displacement dispensing that combined from some of the apricot instruments and the dragonfly instruments. Bringing them together such that we've got the pipetting and dispensing in one system is really unique. The dragonfly discovery technology which is incorporated within firefly is incredibly unique as well as positive displacement non contact down to 200 nanoliters so that itself is very innovative, add to that the software and the architecture of the software that enables collaboration and sharing of protocols across different labs and across the globe as people develop their own workflows and kits and can quickly share them with colleagues and collaborators. The compactness of the system you see the system is really compact for the level of throughput that it can deliver. It has 16 deck positions it has onboard process modules for shaking ,heating, cooling for incubation so it's really a very capable yet compact system for high throughput automated NGS library preparation and that's something that hasn't really been achieved before with traditional systems.

With the update and iteration of the pipetting workstation, users have also put forward higher requirements in terms of accuracy/cost control/contamination risk and other factors, can firefly bring customers a good experience in these aspects?

We haven't seen much innovation in the area of liquid handling in recent years and firefly really brings it as I explained before a wave of innovation both in terms of the non-contact dispensing which really helps with consumable consumption reduction because we can actually dispense reagent in an additive fashion which most NGS kits are these days. We add reagents with a non contact syringe that can be used over and over again. Down to volumes of 200 nanoliters so it helps with the miniaturization elements as well so in terms of cost reduction innovation absolutely that the hardware features enable that and the core technologies enable that and the other thing that's really innovative is the architecture of the system and particularly the software architecture. The ease of use and the ability to share protocols across the globe via the cloud sharing network is really something that we think is gonna drive innovation and drive the adoption of the technology and the adoption of new new kits as they're developed and really that's where we see the acceleration in the field. It's more around the chemistries and the kits that being developed and enhanced by users that firefly would enable via its either views and high throughput liquid handling really unique core technology so I think it's a tool that will enable users to get more from their sequences more rapidly.

Including firefly, will SPTLabtech's products be localized before entering the Chinese market to better meet user needs?

We really consider all markets when we're developing a product. We have a very strong applications and product management team here in SPT China and they feedback as we release early versions of software and prototypes and we invite them to be involved in the development and the iteration of the product such that they can then canvas the opinions of the users in the China market. One of our other recently launched products the apricot DC1 was actually conceptualized here in China, very much based on feedback from the market about unmet needs and the the price point and the size and the capabilities of the liquid handler that we developed was really specifically for that market so we take that market very seriously. We really have a very rapid and strong feedback loop with a customer is one of the ways in which we're able to innovate very, very quickly is that we have listened to the customers requirements, we put products into the market, use innovative technologies and then we iterate on those products and we iterate on software versions to really enhance the experience for the user and that's true in China and all around the globe.

Want to find out more? Why not take a look at our NGS trends report.