Worcester Business Journal
March 3, 2014
By: Rick Saia
So, what's a peptide, anyway? For those who visit New England Peptide in Gardner, the definition of the word adorns a wall in the reception area. It's just a fancy word for "a small piece of protein," says the company's president and CEO, Sam Massoni. In December, the 16-year-old company and a Canadian firm announced a joint venture: a biotechnology company that hopes to create about a dozen jobs over the next three years, some of them in Gardner.
Where has the company’s work made the biggest difference when it comes to improving quality of life?
Today, there are 60 peptides that are clinically certified as drugs. And they compile about $15 billion worth of annual sales. Since peptides are so ubiquitous in our bodies, they really run every biochemical process, they really pertain to a lot of disease states (including) cancer, heart disease, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, HIV, right on down the line.
Your company has implemented lean manufacturing techniques, apparently with good results, such as decreased production time. How does that help you against competitors?
We have to balance manufacturing with research. So lean manufacturing is absolutely critical, because you can get lost in the throes of researching one product … the key to us is, we're in manufacturing. People have deadlines; they need their 10 peptides; they have scientists waiting around. If we don't meet schedules (it's a) huge cost to our customers. As in any business, it's the little stuff that counts.
You recently announced a joint venture (Excipio Technologies) with a Canadian firm that will focus on a new peptide, Vn96. Tell us about its potential.
Vn96 is a peptide that we co-invented and designed (with the Atlantic Cancer Research Institute, the partner in the joint venture). Specifically it binds two little "cargo transports" called exosomes. Exosomes are important because (they're) secreted when there is cell damage or cell stress. Exosomes are released from the cells and they circulate throughout the blood system, in urine, in saliva and in your blood. So we invented a peptide that can separate these exosomes. The interesting thing is we can do a liquid biopsy in which we take a blood sample or a urine sample, we add our peptide, we mix it, it binds to these and through filtration, we can separate these exosomes. And since the exosomes came from diseased cells, we can then do downstream processing of the proteins and the DNA to figure out certain disease states. Now that's down the line. Our peptide is just an isolation methodology for isolating exosomes, which have all the material on them.
Launching a startup obviously takes a lot of effort and capital. What else does it take in an industry such as yours in order for a startup to succeed and grow?
It starts with the federal government, but also our state government and local government. These funding incentives are critical to these new programs. We're a manufacturing facility that has now spun out a research facility. So, we're redesigning a building now (with) an additional 10,000 square feet. So any types of incentives or TIFs that the government can give us, along with grants, is a big deal.
What are the key professional qualities you look for when you’re looking to hire someone?
Culture is very important. We are looking for honest, forthright, high-character people. We are looking for hard-working, keep-it-simple folks who generally have a passion for working and for providing a quality product. We feel like we can train anyone if they have those prerequisites.