Lance Larka, COO and chief technologist, explains how the iXG team is working to make its mark in the exciting field of biotechnology.
Q: When was the company founded?
iXpressGenes, Inc. was launched in October 2009 as an outgrowth of an existing company, Extremozyme, Inc., which was founded in 2004.
Q: When did iXpressGenes move into the institute, and why?
We moved into HudsonAlpha in October 2009. The HudsonAlpha community is a unique and exciting organization to be a part of and iXG’s product portfolio is of value to many of the researchers and resident associate companies in the institute. Being in the same building allows us to interact directly with the end user and provide solutions that would otherwise not be feasible.
Q: iXpressGenes is a unique name; how did you come up with it?
We wanted a name that emphasized our strengths in the industry, namely speed of delivery, focusing on the product, the customer needs, and is homage to our roots as an enzyme expression company.
Q: Please tell us about your team.
Dr. Joe Ng is the president of iXG and has been a faculty member at UAH for 10 years. Joe’s research into protein expression, molecular biology and his special interest in extremophiles (organisms that can live in extreme conditions) is all coming into play at iXG. I have 15 years of laboratory automation experience and manage the day-to-day operations of manufacturing the products.
Q: In layman terms, what does iXpressGenes do?
iXG creates synthetic genes (DNA) from the basic building blocks of the DNA code.
Q: Why is that important?
One particularly important reason is that researchers have very limited resources and obtaining research reagents in a timely manner is critical to their efforts. iXG provides a synthesized gene to the customer in five days or less, a process that has traditionally taken weeks and months.
Q: Who stands to benefit the most, directly and indirectly, from your technologies, products and services?
Ultimately, the public at large benefits the most because researchers and drug companies can get to solutions faster if the synthesized genes are available faster. For example, when the 2009 H1N1 flu pandemic started, researchers at HudsonAlpha and Diatherix Laboratories developed a diagnostic kit within days of the initial outbreak but they needed a way to test it; so they used a synthetic gene instead of live virus thus ensuring the safety of the researchers. That work resulted in Diatherix Laboratories obtaining an FDA Emergency Use Authorization specifically targeted to the 2009 H1N1 influenza strain and provided hospitals and doctors an essential tool for successfully treating patients and saving lives. This is just one example of many.
Q: What are some of your challenges, as well as early successes?
One of our largest challenges is building a laboratory from the ground up. It is also very exciting building something new. We are very proud that within three months of starting operations genes and other products are already being delivered to members of the HudsonAlpha community to facilitate their work.
Q: Has the relationship with HudsonAlpha been as successful as you had anticipated?
Absolutely. The collaborative environment is ideal for a company like iXG. If anything, it is more than what we had hoped. The other companies and researchers have been very helpful and supportive. We look forward to a long and beneficial relationship with the institute.
Q: What is your dream for iXpressGenes?
Our goal is to build a profitable and self-sustaining service business. We hope to be the global market leader in the fabrication of synthetic genes for applications in health, energy and agriculture. In fulfilling this dream, we have set our long-term goals to be the leading service provider for gene production, to excel in research and development of new technologies and to provide educational experiences in biotechnology.