Innovating to Sustain Growth
The flexibility of the company’s services and its emphasis on customer relations at all stages of a project are at least partly responsible for its continued growth, according to Pohl. “We make it as easy as possible for our customers to get their sequences and data analysis as soon as possible, and every member of our team plays an active part in making enhancements to our operation and service offerings. Our internal continuous improvement process leads to many step-by-step improvements and innovations.”
One such innovation was the launch of NightXpress, which GATC claims is the fastest commercial sequencing service worldwide. NightExpress means clients can drop off their plasmid or PCR fragments late in the afternoon or evening and download results the next morning. It is available to clients as part of the company’s Run24, Run24Barcode, and Run24Supreme services.
Since its founding in 1990, Germany-based GATC has grown into an international entity with 60 employees and distribution subsidiaries in the U.K., France, and Sweden. Despite increasing competition in an industry with a growing number of sequencing providers, GATC reports that its share of the market continues to grow steadily.
The GATC of today is, however, unrecognizable from the original family business, which was set up with just DEM2,000 worth of equipment. The company says that it then further developed the world’s first, nonradioactive sequencing technology platform, patented by Pohl’s father at the University of Konstanz in Germany.
The first evolutionary milestone in GATC’s growth was its participation during the early 1990s in the European Saccharomyces cerevisiae genome project. GATC used this program to springboard its patented direct blotting electrophoresis system, the GATC 1500.
While continuing to work on the yeast genome project and commercializing the sequencing platform, GATC also kept abreast of market developments and emerging trends. This led the company in 1996 to divert its efforts away from selling its own sequencing platform to concentrating on the provision of sequencing services, Pohl explains.
“We realized that we couldn’t compete with the new sequencing technologies coming into the market from companie so, during the mid-to-later 1990s, we focused on building our own custom sequencing business and participating in major collaborative academic sequencing projects like Arabidopsis, yeast, and leishmania.”
After realizing that the big sequencing projects of the late 1990s would also be too big for a single sequencing company to tackle alone, GATC cofounded the Gene Alliance network. It was set up as a consortium of five German biotech companies that continued to operate independently but also combined their expertise for participation in major genome sequencing programs.