PureHoney Technologies

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February 20, 2017 Issue



CRO Providing Mass Spectrometry and Analytical Services for Biopharma Clients with Fast Turnaround Time and Low Cost



Can “Jon” Özbal, Ph.D.

President and CEO


PureHoney Technologies



Can “Jon” Ozbal, PhD



Interview conducted by:

Lynn Fosse, Senior Editor, CEOCFO Magazine, Published – February 20, 2017


CEOCFO: Dr. Ozbal, what is PureHoney Technologies?

Dr. Ozbal: We are a contract research organization, specializing in mass spectrometry and analytical services. We use various mass spec platforms, but primarily a high-throughput platform called RapidFire that my team and I developed at a couple of previous companies and that was acquired by Agilent Technologies in 2011. We now offer access to the RapidFire-Mass Spec technology as a contract research service for our biopharma customers.


CEOCFO: In laymen’s terms, what is different about your technology?

Dr. Ozbal: Traditionally, such measurements are done by a technology known as High Performance Liquid Chromatography Mass Spectrometry or HPLC-MS. Typically the throughput of these tests is on the order of minutes or even tens of minutes per sample. Our technology allows throughputs of under ten seconds per sample for a wide range of applications. This enables us analyze a much larger volume of samples very quickly and at a much lower cost. It is really about speed to answer, turnaround time and capacity.


CEOCFO: How much testing might you do for one particular company, so that it makes a difference?

Dr. Ozbal: It can vary. Some biotech companies and smaller discovery companies may only have a few hundred samples to analyze. With these engagements we make a difference with the expertise and insight we provide at every step of the project. Others; and this is particularly true for larger pharma companies and some of our partner research organizations; can test hundreds of thousands of samples for a single project. This is where the speed of our analytical measurements becomes critical. With conventional technologies screening a couple of hundred thousand samples is really a non-starter, both due to time and due to cost. At minutes per sample, analyzing one hundred thousand samples could be a yearlong project. With our throughput and the multiple instruments in our lab we can analyze one hundred thousand samples in a matter of weeks


CEOCFO: Is the industry, overall, aware?

Dr. Ozbal: Indeed! Every one of the top 10 pharmaceutical companies globally is a user of the RapidFire platform in some capacity. It is available for purchase through Agilent Technologies. The platform costs many hundreds of thousands of dollars depending on the options purchased. For those customers that do many millions of assays a year, it makes perfect sense to acquire this hardware, to bring the technology in house and run it internally. However, we have a large number of customers here in Greater Boston and also around the country that are interested in doing smaller scale projects. These clients simply ship their frozen samples for analysis via currier or overnight delivery to our laboratory. We analyze the samples using our instruments under the guidance of our expert technical staff and then send out the results. Our clients don’t have to spend their valuable resources on acquiring and operating this equipment. We can simply run their projects for them as required.


CEOCFO: Would you tell us about the human element; the “know how” part of what you do at PureHoney?

Dr. Ozbal: Given that my team and I originally developed the RapidFire technology over fifteen years ago, we are very experienced at developing new assays and acquiring data. A client might come to us with a unique new project, such as a drug discovery, biomarker, or functional assay project. For every new project the first thing that needs to be done is to develop a specific method and assay to accurately quantify the analytes of interest for that project. That requires a fair amount of skill, expertise and knowledge, both with the technology and also with the sample preparation. Over a decade of experience working on a very wide range of assays has yielded much knowledge for us to leverage in getting clients’ high quality data quickly. We first launched this contract research business in 2004, and continued the business even after being acquired by Agilent Technologies. Two years ago Agilent decided to discontinue the contract research business, so we founded PureHoney Technologies because of the demand for these analytical services. Over the years we have done hundreds of different assays for dozens and dozens of clients across the globe. 


CEOCFO: Would you tell us about the move to the larger facility?

Dr. Ozbal: This is very exciting for us! We initially launched our operations on January 1, 2015 in an industrial building in Acton, Massachusetts. While it was acceptable for our initial startup it was far from ideal. In December 2016 we moved to our current location in Billerica, MA. Our new space is a large lab facility that was once a demonstration lab for Bruker, one of the large instrumentation companies in our field.  We have a fully functional laboratory with everything we need and a much nicer work environment for our employees as well.


CEOCFO: What goes into a successful facility? What do you need? What are the quality controls and the cleanliness? What are some of the things that you need to be on top of at all times?

Dr. Ozbal: Our lab facility and procedures are inspected by local and state authorities and multiple permits are required. Also non-negotiable is the health and safety of our employees and workforce. Our facility has ventilated fume hoods, enclosed balances and a fully functional BL2 laboratory. Solvents and hazardous waste are stored and disposed of safely and properly. We ensure that everyone on our team has all of the best training, protection and safety features in place. These are also non-negotiable. We also want a friendly, pleasant, bright workspace where our employees are happy come to work every day. This is a little more negotiable, but also very important. Our new facility also has multiple meeting rooms and conference rooms where we can meet with our clients and discuss their projects and data.


CEOCFO: Is it still exciting for you?

Dr. Ozbal: Very much so!


CEOCFO: Why? How? What makes it so?

Dr. Ozbal: I first started my career after graduate school as a bench scientist working in the RapidFire technology at a company called BioTrove. As the technology grew and matured from lab prototypes to a commercial system my role within the organization grew as well. I was the Vice President of the RapidFire Business Unit of BioTrove and then the Chief Operating Officer of Biocius Life Sciences which we spun out of BioTrove in 2010. This was the company that was bought by Agilent in 2011 and I spent 2.5 years as part of Agilent. As my role evolved I wasn’t able to spend as much time in the laboratory or directly interacting with our customers and collaborators and was increasingly tied up with management responsibilities. Now that we have spun up PureHoney tech we have a smaller group and I get to go back into the lab again. I get to interact with our customers daily. The time I spent at Agilent after the acquisition was a great experience and I learned a tremendous amount about life and process in a Fortune 500 company. But this life is very different than life at a startup with a small team where everyone wears every hat. I really enjoy this life more. Every day is a thrill!


CEOCFO: When you are talking with a customer are you helping them figure out what they want you to do? Is it more figuring out how much you can do for the money they have? What are some of the choices that you might help a customer make?

Dr. Ozbal: We really don’t have a typical customer. Our customers are scientists that have a very wide range of background and expertise. Many of our customers are not analytical chemists like we are. They may be biologists, cell culture experts, or in some cases clinicians. They know what they would like to measure in their samples, but often times they do not know what is technically feasible or available. They are some of the world’s experts in their fields but not necessarily in mass spectrometry and analytical chemistry like my team and I are. We sit down with these customers and discuss their needs and we how we might be able to come up with fast and cost effective solutions to meet those needs. It does happen that some requirements are technically not feasible but often we can come up with a strategy to answer the needs of our clients. Then we have other customers that are experts in the things we do. Many of our customers actually own their own RapidFire systems within their own organizations. We can support these customers with capacity needs if they have more work than their in-house systems can handle. Occasionally we can support them with an assay development. If they come across a project that they cannot figure out or have more work than they can handle our team can help fill in the gaps. These clients are often RapidFire experts and know exactly what the capabilities of the instrument are and maybe they are coming to us saying, “We have got to do this big project and our machine is busy, so we are going to send you our over-capacity work.” Our interaction from customer to customer can be very different as a result.


CEOCFO: What is next for PureHoney?

Dr. Ozbal: We have some ideas that are beyond our core business that around a new instrumentation platform. It is much more geared towards clinical diagnostics. Right now, almost our entire business is based on drug discoveries or early research; some animal studies, but largely focused on the early stages of pharmaceutical drug discovery. We spend some of our resources for research and development on a next generation instrument platform; but this would be a completely separate market than what our CRO business is focused on.


CEOCFO: What should our readers take away about PureHoney Technologies?

Dr. Ozbal: I think we are a very unique organization and team in that we have a huge amount of experience and expertise in a very specific analytical service. Our team has some of the world’s experts when it comes to high throughput mass spectrometry. For almost two decades we have been working on these kinds of technologies and helping push the field forward. We can bring a unique advantage to our clients providing them with cost effective data with very fast turnaround times, often for projects that may not even be feasible with more conventional technologies. We work on a wide range of projects and like to say that no project is too small. Projects can range from a few hundred samples to a few hundred thousand samples. At PureHoney Tech we strive to form partnerships with our clients to work together to solve their analytical and research challenges.



“At PureHoney Tech we strive to form partnerships with our clients to work together to solve their analytical and research challenges.”- Can “Jon” Özbal, Ph.D.


PureHoney Technologies



Can “Jon” Ozbal, PhD








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