July 1, 2012 (Vol. 32, No. 13)

With Three Companies Operating Under Firm’s Umbrella, Focus Extends Beyond Services

Frontier Scientific has been around since 1975, when Bruce Burnham, Ph.D., started the company as Porphyrin Products. A porphyrin chemist at Utah State University, Dr. Burnham developed porphyrin-based products used in photodynamic therapies, diagnostic tests, and industrial and drug-delivery applications.

The company changed its name to Frontier Scientific in 1999, but retains the Porphyrin Products brand name. “It’s still a thriving part of Frontier Scientific and a premier porphyrin supplier in the world,” says Tim Miller, president and CEO.

In addition to porphyrin products, Frontier Scientific sells dendrimers, catalysts, ligands, and organic building blocks such as organoborons, organohalides, and organosilanes. Frontier Scientific has provided custom synthesis services in diverse fields of chemistry for more than 30 years.

The company’s analytical capabilities include NMR, GCMS, and LCMS, as well as equipment to support small- and large-scale syntheses and purifications of up to multikilogram quantities. Products are synthesized, characterized, and shipped quickly and efficiently, says Miller, who is also president and CEO of Echelon Biosciences, a sister company, formed to investigate lipid cell signaling and critical metabolic enzymes. The firm grew out of a project at the Center for Cell Signaling, a state-funded organization.

Echelon focuses on finding new viable targets for the development of potential drugs and diagnostics for cancer, diabetes, inflammation, infections, and cardiovascular disease. As CEO, Miller runs both companies as one organization, but they remain separate legal entities.

Researchers at Echelon Biosciences are developing preclinical assays and reagents clustered around human lipids that act as secondary messengers in signaling pathways. Several biomarkers and diagnostic tests are in the pipeline, such as a marker to confirm chronic alcohol abuse, and another for hyaluronic acid to detect late-stage liver disease.

They are also creating tests for diagnosing antiphospholipid syndrome, an autoimmune disorder that causes deep vein thrombosis and spontaneous abortions. Another assay will detect a drug candidate’s ability to induce phospholipidosis, a potential toxicity condition in some drug trials. “These types of tests capture more downstream market value,” says Miller.

Catalog items sold by Echelon include biological reagents and assays for PI-3 kinase, phosphoinositides, hyaluronic acid, isoprenoids, sphingolipids, lipid protein interaction tools, antibodies and recognition proteins, enzyme substrates, and inhibitors. Custom synthesis and complete assay services are available. Echelon Biosciences is expanding its product offering of biomarkers for drug discovery, companion diagnostics, and disease detection.

Frontier Scientific has designed and built a custom liquid-handling enclosure that can accurately solvate more than 50,000 samples per week, formatting stock libraries or newly purchased samples into industry standard plates.

CRO Services

Most recently, Frontier Scientific acquired the assets of ASDI in Newark, Delaware, and renamed it Frontier Scientific Services (FSSI). This contract research organization provides chemical services to pharmaceutical, industrial, and academic clients. FSSI has expertise in compound management, including registration, net inventory capture, material analysis, reformatting, and powder/liquid specifications.

“The chemical procurement, library management, and analytical services of FSSI complement our existing chemical building block and molecular and cellular biology product offerings,” says Miller.

FSSI remains in Delaware to best serve large pharmaceutical clients on the eastern corridor, Miller adds. The company offers a catalog of high-quality, diverse intermediates and building blocks through an online ordering system that supports substructure searching. All FSSI products and services are provided in customer-specified formats including preweighed, micromolar quantities.

FSSI also excels at tracking down hard-to-find materials, Miller notes. “We get many requests from companies with lists of compounds to find for them, and FSSI offers that service,” he says.

FSSI’s reclamation and purification services can rejuvenate compound libraries that have been shelved for long periods. FSSI experts clean up compounds with chromatographic and other analytical methods to ensure purity and stability. This saves clients money and optimizes client time during processes ranging from synthesis to screening, Miller points out.

Within many large companies, parts of drug libraries are housed in different facilities, and it can take two to three weeks to obtain subsets. By having FSSI manage compound libraries, different subsets of the library can be acquired in any desired format in two to three days, says Miller. Duplicates of client libraries can be made and stored in Utah.

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