October 1, 2018 (Vol. 38, No. 17)
Enzo Life Sciences Develops, Produces, and Markets a Range of Life Sciences Research Reagents
After 40 years of operation, Enzo Biochem has a large patent portfolio. What sustains the company isn’t the patents, per se, but a commitment on the company’s part to translate the patents into useful products for customers. This focus on customers can be seen not only within each of the company’s three subsidiaries—Enzo Clinical Labs, Enzo Therapeutics, and Enzo Life Sciences—but also between the subsidiaries. Given Enzo’s multitiered activities, the company often can use its own products.
Enzo Life Sciences manufactures and markets biomedical research products and tools, which are critical not only to basic research, but to drug development, commercial operations, and diagnostic services.
“A lot of our technology is based on labeling molecules to see how they behave in real-world environments,” Kara Cannon, Enzo Life Sciences’ corporate vice president of commercial operations, tells GEN. “Our Proteostat® assays, for example, are used mostly by industrial bioprocessing clients.
“One pharma client was trying to understand the thermal stability of a novel therapeutic compound. Its scientists said that because they used Proteostat—which detects ligand binding without knowing the protein’s function or ligand binding site, and without requiring sample separation or dilution—they were able to move their novel biomarker down the development pipeline more quickly because they were able to get results with this assay that others couldn’t deliver.”
The difference, Cannon explains, is sensitivity. Enzo’s assay enables users to view molecular-level effects that otherwise would remain obscure.
Product Portfolio Grows Annually
Enzo’s products include proteins, antibodies, peptides, small molecules, labeling probes, dyes, and kits to help researchers from pharma, biotech, and academia identify and validate targets, analyze gene expression, detect nucleic acids and protein biochemistry, and analyze cellular activity.
To enhance its reach into anatomical pathology laboratories and enable the detection of a variety of cancers, Enzo Life Sciences recently launched three new antibodies:
- p16INK4A monoclonal antibody, which is specific for a cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor.
- HER2/neu monoclonal antibody, specific for a proto-oncogenic transmembrane receptor of tyrosine kinase.
- Ki-67 monoclonal antibody, which is linked to cell proliferation and therefore is a biomarker for tumor growth.
Hands-On Connections Remain Strong
According to Bloomberg, Enzo Biochem is an integrated diagnostic bioscience company that “engages in the research, development, manufacture, and marketing of diagnostic services and research products based on genetic engineering, biotechnology, and molecular biology.”
Naturally, the company’s diagnostic services fall largely within the purview of the Clinical Labs subsidiary, which includes a New York State–certified clinical lab. Research products, including those essential to the development of molecular diagnostic platforms, are available through the Life Sciences subsidiary.
“We make and sell our products, but we also use our diagnostics reagents ourselves,” Cannon points out. “Our ability to validate these assays in our own labs is an asset to our customer base.”
That hands-on experience dates from Enzo Biochem’s first days. Some 40 years ago, Enzo Biochem’s founder and CEO Elazar Rabbani, Ph.D., was a postdoctoral researcher in biochemistry at Columbia University. Back then, he was just beginning to think about forming a company.
“He was cognizant that he needed connections in the market,” Cannon relates. “He tells stories of roaming the halls of Columbia, talking with colleagues.” As he identified their laboratory challenges, he formed solutions and eventually turned colleagues into customers. “He built Enzo Biochem,” Cannon emphasizes, “by making as many connections as possible.”
At first, Enzo outlicensed its technology to clients while it was building its internal infrastructure and a global product portfolio. Then it added a clinical lab to provide full diagnostic services to physician clients.
“Throughout it all, our values stayed the same,” Cannon maintains. “Enzo is publicly traded (NYSE:ENZ), but it has the feel of a positive, proactive family business. We’ll roll up our sleeves to get product out the door and to our customers.”
Obsessed with Technology
“We’re obsessed with technology,” Cannon declares. This fixation on developing and cultivating strong intellectual property, she continues, meant that some company activities, like focusing on branding, were a lower priority than helping clients build their own brand equity.
“In hindsight, we should have started branding earlier,” Cannon admits. By outlicensing its products, the company kept operating in stealth mode. “Today, we’re not as well-known as we’d like,” she says. “We have a lot of repeat customers and about $100 million per year in revenue, but I still go to conferences where the Enzo name is new to people.”
Yet, she points out, Enzo has a proud history. It was a pioneer in fluorescent labeling, launching those products in 1981. At that time, radioactive labeling was used routinely to study nucleic acids.
“That technique wasn’t user friendly or safe, and it required a special license and a special room to work with the isotopes,” she says. When fluorescent labeling was developed, the work became more efficient, less expensive, and safer.”
Three years later, in 1984, Enzo launched in situ hybridization (ISH) probes and FISH (fluorescent in situ hybridization) technology.
Since then, Enzo has grown by releasing new products each year and by acquiring strategic companies. For example, Enzo Life Sciences acquired Alexis Biochemicals and Axxora in 2007, Biomol International in 2008, and Assay Designs and Stressgen Biotechnologies in 2009.
Meeting Today’s Challenges
“With virtually all of our customers, from academic researchers to pharma, biotech, and clinical labs, cost pressures continue to be the number one concern,” Cannon insists. To reduce the pressure, she says Enzo Life Sciences works with customers to help ensure that its reagents fit into labs’ existing workflows. “There’s no need to buy capital equipment,” she stresses.
The company focuses on offering open, flexible solutions that allow more cost-effective options, adds Cannon. It also recognizes the importance of steadily incorporating technological advances, particularly those that can help clients achieve results more quickly, whether the clients are advancing their products toward clinical trials or scaling up commercial operations.
“We’re continuing to expand our already broad base of technologies,” states Cannon. “We’re looking to move the Proteostat assay family to areas outside its current utility, like flow cytometry, and to find ways to put technology into alternate formats.”
In 2018, the company has secured 14 new patents and added 6 new products (so far). It has become the lab services provider to a large commercial payer and has expanded its sales force. Finally, the firm has taken steps to intensify its partnering activity. Also, according to some analysts, Enzo is planning to expand its facilities.
To help Enzo stay abreast of current and future research interests, the Enzo commercial team is engaged in the field, talking with customers, and staying active at trade shows and on social media, according to Cannon, who adds that the company also combs the literature to identify new and emerging areas of research, gathering information to support the development of assays that can serve up-and-coming sectors.
Like Dr. Rabbani in Enzo’s earliest days, Cannon says, “We try to stay as connected as possible to our customers, to really hear what they’re saying.”
Enzo Life Sciences