Recognising an opportunity to maximise commercialisation
PrimerDesign Ltd, based at Millbrook Technology Campus in Southampton, are a unique and thriving company set up by academics from the School of Medicine at the University of Southampton.
The company, who develop DNA test kits, have seen rapid organic growth and now have over 1000 clients globally. An innovative business model and a thorough understanding of their marketplace, combined with some very inventive marketing and an emphasis on quality service, have lead to an explosion in sales and a rapidly growing quality reputation in the field.
In May 2009, PrimerDesign were the first company globally to produce DNA test kit for the Mexican H1N1 Swine flu.
The company has a unique rapid throughput system that allows for the development of such kits in turnaround times previously unheard of in the industry. The company has kits for the detection of over 100 diseases in its catalogue as well as over 3,500 other research targets.
Responding to the rapidly increasing number of cases globally of Mexican H1N1 Swine flu, the company has developed from scratch the complete ‘diagnostic quality' kit within a fortnight.
How SETsquared/ Tech transfer Office has helped
PrimerDesign's operations began in the SETsquared Business Incubation Centre based at the University of Southampton. The Centre provided PrimerDesign with business support through a mentorship programme and business planning advice. The company are still part of the programme now.
In 2007 the company moved out of the SETsquared incubator programme and moved in to the Millbrook Technology Campus - a growing business technology park which offers flexible space enabling growth without restrictive terms and conditions. As a small company they benefit from facilities that would normally only be available to large corporate companies, such as onsite security, a post room, canteen and ample parking. They also benefit from being surrounded by many other start-ups, high-growth companies, which creates a unique entrepreneurial environment.
PrimerDesign started with just a small amount of grub funding (£30k), the company has grown organically without any further investment and now employs 10 people (on a permanent and part-time basis) with a view to increasing numbers in the future.
Business Won so Far
Following manufacture, PrimerDesign made their first shipment of the test kits to Mexico within 17 days of the first confirmed cases of what was essentially a brand new disease - a spectacularly quick turnaround time in the industry.
The kits are for use in hospital laboratories and for this particular product the company already had 30 significant customers in territories across the globe in addition to Mexico- including Europe, the Far East, Middle East and North and South America. The kit has formed an integral part of the national monitoring strategy in many of said continents.
By recognising the opportunity to be the first company to bring the kit to market globally, PrimerDesign not only capitalised on a commercial opportunity and increased their profitability but also massively raised the profile of their organisation through a high level of media coverage.
The enhancement of reputation on the back of this dramatic product launch opened up new opportunities for the company. Significant contract talks with two larger industry players then became underway.
PrimerDesign are now able to move forward in the continental European Market, and are opening up a sales office in Germany, to better serve their European customers.
PrimerDesign began trading in 2005 having been set-up by University of Southampton academics - Professor Tom Brown, Dr Rob Powell and Dr Jim Wicks - the company's three directors.
Joining the team is Dr. Jo Vandesompele, a Scientific Adviser for PrimerDesign, who currently works at the Centre for Medical Genetics in Ghent University, Belgium.