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Go with the flow
PITTSBURGH—Thar Instruments announced in early July its acquisition of the Berger SFC division of Mettler Toledo, a transaction that enhances Thar's resources for developing new supercritical fluid chromatography (SFC) applications.
Todd Palcic, vice president of Thar Instruments, says combining the two companies' experience and intellectual capacities should result in "a new mass triggered product line that big pharma demands. Our customers are big pharma mainly, and they've been pushing us to finish development on this product."
Thar will work over the next couple years to integrate the best characteristics of the companies' instruments into better products, says Palcic. Ideas include developing new SFC applications, like clinical and quality control in pharma, where users haven't adopted SFC.
Because Berger SFC and Thar competed for customers before the acquisition, says Palcic, the companies often spent time winning clients rather than focusing on tasks like integrating software products into their platforms. Now, with the critical mass to spend on research and applications, Thar will expand software options for clients, making favored applications more available. "We want to make sure that the experience of transitioning from HPLC to SFC is as seamless as possible," says Palcic, while also admitting that "chemists don't like radical change."
One change that should be welcome, though, is the green aspect of SFC: the technology uses CO2 as a solvent. "It replaces harmful toxic solvents like hexane and heptane," says Palcic, solvents that also require energy for drying. By contrast, preparative and process SFC functions use waste CO2 that can be recycled again. "Less energy intensive, less expensive, more safe," says Palcic. "It's greener all the way around."
Palcic says one reason Thar can put finishing touches on product lines is that the Thar-Berger combination joins resources attractive to funders. "The new entity is much better financed," he says. "The banks like our new position and they like what we're doing to go forward."
The sale of Berger SFC makes sense for Mettler Toledo, too, says Henry Dubina, president of the company's AutoChem division. AutoChem, he says, can now concentrate on its chief markets: automated lab reactors, process analytical technology, and related software for chemists and engineers in the biopharma and chemical industries. "Mettler Toledo is not a chromatography company, and it became clear that to address that SFC opportunity effectively and really optimize the whole process, it would be much better in a fully integrated chromatography company," says Dubina. Berger SFC had been a part of Mettler Toledo for around six years.
Beyond purchasing Berger SFC, Thar has taken other steps toward refining and retooling its product line, says Palcic. One development is a new strategic partnership with Waters Corp. for incorporating Waters mass spectrometers into Thar's new mass-triggered (mass-directed) preparative product line.
Thar is also moving its demonstration lab and application development functions from Pittsburgh to Newark, Delaware, where the majority of Berger SFC's staff of more than 30 is based. The site will continue manufacturing and research activity, too, in close proximity to the many small-molecule pharma companies in the greater New Jersey area, says Palcic.