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Corporate Profile : Nov 15, 2009 (Vol. 29, No. 20)

NBS Experiences Post-Acquisition Growth

New Brunswick Scientific Posts Most Successful Year in Recent Decades After Eppendorf Merger
  • Carol Potera

About two years ago, Eppendorf  acquired New Brunswick Scientific (NBS). Known for shakers, fermentors, bioreactors, incubators, and freezers, NBS continues to operate under its own name, and the staff and management have remained largely intact.

“The merger converted NBS from a mid-size, publicly held company to a large private one, with greater resources to design, sell, and support our broad range of life science equipment,” says Jim Orcutt, president and CEO at NBS.

Eppendorf and NBS share similar corporate cultures. Both started in the 1940s as small family businesses that grew into corporations with a legacy of innovative products, Orcutt says. By merging, the two companies continue to manufacture laboratory equipment and supplies, based on Eppendorf’s expertise in designing and manufacturing plastics and NBS’ knowledge of cell culture and bioprocess controls.

“Our merger with New Brunswick has been successful because our companies share a common vision of providing customers with top-quality equipment and backing it with unparalleled customer support,” adds Klaus Fink, CEO at Eppendorf.

Thinking Outside the Bag

“Very shortly after the merger, we started our first collaborative development project,” Orcutt says. The result is the CelliGen™ BLU, a benchtop bioreactor featuring a single-use stirred-tank vessel and state-of-the-art control station. CelliGen was released worldwide last month.

Single-use, disposable systems have been on the market for several years and provide several advantages, according to Orcutt, including reducing start-up costs; making validation easier; eliminating cleaning and autoclaving; and allowing for quick changeovers between production runs. However, researchers and bioprocess professionals told NBS that they also valued the control accuracy and scalability of traditional stirred-tank systems.

“CelliGen BLU works exactly like traditional stirred-tank bioreactors, yet the entire vessel, including the impeller, gas sparger, and sensors, are disposable,” explains Orcutt. The CelliGen BLU is designed for benchtop and scale-up use to move processes into production. It comes in 5 L and 14 L total volume sizes.

All components that come in contact with products are made of USP Class VI materials and are fully tested for leachable and extractable contaminants, Orcutt notes. The control station includes built-in firmware to control up to 32 parameters, and can be custom-configured with options such as four-gas mixing or multiple thermal mass flow controllers to produce high cell densities.

Green Freezers

NBS’ new line of -86° Green Freezers  use hydrocarbons as refrigerants instead of ozone-depleting HFC (hydrofluorocarbon) gases. “Our already energy-efficient traditional freezers are 30 to 40% more efficient than competitor’s models, and our Green Freezers improve this efficiency up to another 10%,” comments Orcutt. Although popular in Europe, Green Freezers are not yet available in North America.

Europe has taken the lead in moving away from HFC gases, according to Orcutt. In some cases, multinational pharmaceutical companies that require large numbers of freezers are leading the transition to these energy-efficient and eco-friendly models. With energy conservation and reduction of global warming a priority for companies today, NBS’ Green Freezers “are good for the environment and can save in operating costs over the course of the freezer’s lifetime,” Orcutt says.

CO2 Incubators

Earlier this year, NBS introduced a new line of Galaxy® CO2 incubators that reportedly minimizes contamination risk, improves temperature and CO2 control, and reduces maintenance time. The Galaxy line comes in three sizes and two model ranges, including a microsize 0.5 cubic foot/1.7 L incubator, which is suited for stem cell research, in vitro fertilization, and other applications where sample isolation is needed, Orcutt says.

The incubator can be customized with a variety of options such as active humidification, high-temperature disinfection, and oxygen control from 0.1 to 95%. Low-cost models with standard LED are available as well as advanced systems with LCD display and 72-hour data logging of temperature, door openings, gases, and relative humidity, so that researchers can track culture conditions even when away from the lab.

Other new products from NBS include a benchtop fermentor/bioreactor, the BioFlo/CelliGen 115, which comes with a compact control station and vessels ranging from 1.3 to 14 liters. The controller can regulate up to three independent vessels. A touchscreen monitor, pumps, and configurable controls for gases, pH, and foam are built in, and no external computer is needed. “The entire system is designed to simplify ordering, setup, and use,” says Orcutt.

NBS is now shipping the BioFlo 610, a sterilizable-in-place bioprocess fermentor for pilot plants and small-scale production. With capacities of 65 liters or 125 liters, the BioFlo 610 bridges the gap between the BioFlo 510, a 20 and 40 L system, and the BioFlo Pro, a 75 to 3,000 L production system.

In addition to new products, the NBS/Eppendorf merger led to collaboration between sales and service centers, particularly in Europe and Asia. Eppendorf now offers NBS products in Germany, France, Italy, India, and China, and NBS distributes Eppendorf products to customers in The Netherlands and Belgium. The merger also increased funds to upgrade NBS’ manufacturing facilities for faster delivery of finished goods to customers.

“While many suppliers of durable goods to the life science industry experienced a drop in sales during the recent economic downturn, NBS had its most successful year in recent decades,” comments Orcutt.