January 13, 2003 - American Chemical Society: Colombia RPCV Thomas Zitrides founds Biotechnology company
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January 13, 2003 - American Chemical Society: Colombia RPCV Thomas Zitrides founds Biotechnology company
Colombia RPCV Thomas Zitrides founds Biotechnology company
Read and comment on this story from the American Chemical Society on Colombia RPCV Thomas Zitrides who founded Biotechnology company Bioscience Inc., that specializes in the treatment of wastewater, soil and sludge with microbials, or naturally occurring microorganisms. The advantage to bioremediation is that it's natural-it doesn't use toxic chemicals or other methods that can be harsh on the environment. Yet it can be as effective and less costly than sending the waste to a landfill or incinerating it, Zitrides says. Read the story at:
PROFILE: BIOSCIENCE INC., Firm finds niche in burgeoning biotech revolution*
* This link was active on the date it was posted. PCOL is not responsible for broken links which may have changed.
PROFILE: BIOSCIENCE INC., Firm finds niche in burgeoning biotech revolution
Source: Eastern Pennsylvania Business Journal
Oil spills. Contaminated sludge. Wastewater treatment plant odors.
A company in the Lehigh Valley Corporate Center in Hanover Township, Northampton County, can help fix such environmental problems naturally.
The company, Bioscience Inc., specializes in the treatment of wastewater, soil and sludge with microbials, or naturally occurring microorganisms.
Founded by Thomas Zitrides in 1984, Bioscience has two divisions: biotreatment and analytical.
The biotreatment division develops and manufactures natural ingredients i.e. microbes, enzymes, proteins, nutrients, absorbents, buffers-that can he used to treat wastewater and cleanup oil and other chemical spills. The 45 different microbial products that Bioscience sells-in dry-powder or water-based-liquid form-work by eating the contaminants; as they digest them, they remove most of their toxic components.
Bioscience's analytical division manufactures and sells analytical instruments from $5 portable test kits for use in the field to $50,000 instruments for use in laboratories. The equipment is used to monitor systems in such places as municipal wastewater treatment, pulp and paper, food processing, textile and pharmaceutical plants.
Bioremediation, in which Bioscience specializes, is part of the biotech revolution that everyone is talking about and that Lehigh Valley economic development officials are trying to attract. (See related story on page 1.) However, Zitrides says, bioremediation often gets overlooked in the onslaught of medical and agricultural applications of biotechnology.
The advantage to bioremediation is that it's natural-it doesn't use toxic chemicals or other methods that can be harsh on the environment. Yet it can be as effective and less costly than sending the waste to a landfill or incinerating it, Zitrides says.
"If you have a large amount of biodegradable organic substances present, then biotreatment tends to be the most cost-effective method for removing most of it," he explains.
However, bioremediation is not for every application. For example, it will not remove 100 percent of the contaminated waste. "Anything's possible but zero contaminant in the end," Zitrides says. "So if you need zero, thats where physical and chemical methods come in."
Bioscience is the second company that Zitrides, who has a degree in chemistry from Dartmouth and a master's from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, started.
Born in North Carolina, Zitrides came to the Lehigh Valley in the early 1970s to work for Air Products & Chemicals in Trexlertown after graduate school. (After college, he served two years in the Peace Corps in Colombia.)
At the time, Air Products had a fledgling operation designing and building large municipal and industrial wastewater treatment systems.
"I was trained as a chemist, not in wastewater treatment," Zitrides recalls, "but I got deeply involved in their wastewater treatment systems business."
Thanks to government financing at the time, wastewater treatment systems were growing rapidly.
Zitrides saw an opportunity to develop and market products that went into enhancing the operations of the biological systems Air Products was selling.
"While the systems were designed properly," he explains, "in practice, you could see that there were all kinds of variables- wastewater conditions and wastewater processing conditions-that needed to be dealt with. The systems as designed may or may not be able to handle that."
Zitrides left Air Products in 1975 and started Polybac Corp., which specialized in microbial and enzyme products for enhancing wastewater treatment plant operations. The start-up offered some soil remediation products as well.
The company did well and went public in 1980.
Polybac benefited from the boom in biotechnology that occurred in the late 1970s and early 1980s "that was very much like the technology boom that we saw in the late '90s. We went public between Genentech Inc. and Cetus Corp., the two biggest names in biotechnology," Zitrides says.
A typical sag followed the boom, however, "and things became very confining for me with the board of directors and so on and so on," Zitrides says.
In 1984, Zitrides left Polybac to start Bioscience in the Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania, the statesponsored technology incubator on Lehigh University's campus. Bioscience offered some of the same as well as some additional biotreatment products.
Initially, Bioscience concentrated on microbial products, but it soon expanded to include analytical instruments to use in laboratories to help screen applications of its products.
A company that owned a respirometer, which measures microbial growth rate, was selling it. "So we acquired that product line and have since amplified that and expanded it into a whole separate analytical product line," Zitrides says.
Today, Bioscience's business is about evenly split between analysis and biotreatment products. Bioscience has 10 full-time and five parttime employees. It has 40 to 50 distributors who sell its products and services around the world.
Bioscience moved to the Lehigh Valley Corporate Center, which was developed by Liberty Property Trust Of Malvern, Chester County, on land it bought from Lehigh University, in the early 1980s. "We were the first tenant in this whole development here," Zitrides says.
In 1995, the company moved across the driveway from 1530 to 1550 when another tenant in 1530, SKF, wanted its space.
"We have about 10,000-square-feet of offices, labs and production facilities, Zitrides says. From here, its only location, Bioscience manufactures its products, and warehouses and ships them.
Zitrides recently returned from Turkey where he installed a $30,000 instrument for its national research institute.
Bioscience had a slow period in the mid-1990s-as did its entire industry. But it has been growing 5 percent to 10 percent a year since 1997, Zitrides says. Sales have gone from zero to between $1 million and $2 million annually.
Bioscience continues to expand its product line. Last spring for example, it introduced a new biological product for maintaining water clarity of lakes, fish farms, lagoons, polishing ponds and other slowmoving bodies of water.
It also introduced an environmentally friendly, biological cleaning agent for lift stations and sewer systems that contain no toxic chemicals. Known as Microcat-DNT Drain and Sewer Cleaner, the product is a dry, free-flowing powder that when added to sewer lines liquefies and degrades greases and fats, minimizing odors and preventing blockages.
Consolidation in the industry has left Bioscience a mid-size company in its field. "There is one very large company now and the rest are much smaller," Zitrides says.
Bob J. Correll, owner of AAATECH in Manteca, Calif., which exports products aimed at the prevention or treatment of pollution, says Bioscience "provides the best microbial products available as far as our experience indicates."
Correll also compliments Bioscience's inventory and service. "They are attentive to details," he says. Also, he says, "They make a much better than ordinary effort to satisfy special requests (formulate special products) etc."
Bioscience was ISO certified in 2002.
Robert Wagenveld, director of QM Bioscience Europe BV near Amsterdam, started working with Bioscience in December 1999. Before that, he says, his company sold products from producers of microbial products based in Europe.
However, he found that European producers weren't responsive. "Sometimes we had to wait for answers to problems for days or weeks." The advantage to Bioscience is that it responds within 24 hours. "They have always had a rapid response to questions," he says.
Bioscience's broad product line is another advantage, Wagenveld says. Offering "not only microbial products but also analytical products helps in the identification and testing of problems."
Copyright Eastern Pennsylvania Business Journal Jan 13, 2003
More about Bioscience Inc.
Read more about Bioscience Inc at:
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