An interview with Chris Catani, director of sales, marketing, and customer service

Hardy Diagnostics began 26 years ago as Hardy Media when its founders, Robert Shibata and Jay Hardy, licensed medical laboratory technologists working in local hospitals in the Santa Barbara, Calif, area, saw a need for high-quality culture media in California. Starting with limited funds, the founders originally provided media for a large regional hospital: Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital. After news of the company’s initial success spread, other laboratories in the area requested to be supplied by Hardy Media. The owners eventually left their hospital jobs and made a commitment to promote the growth of the company on a full-time basis. Its seeds have now sprouted into a full-grown operation: Hardy Diagnostics.

CLP spoke to Christopher Catani, the company’s director of sales, marketing, and customer service, about its newest products, the problems it has encountered dealing with group purchasing organizations (GPOs), and its hopes for the future.

CLP: What needs does Hardy Diagnostics satisfy within the clinical diagnostic market?

Catani: Hardy Diagnostics provides more than 2,000 prepared culture media products and more than 10,000 laboratory supplies. We are big enough to supply even the largest facilities with their microbiology needs but small enough to provide the best customer service in the industry. Additionally, we maintain more than 5,000 active customers. Hardy Diagnostics offers the microbiology lab one-stop shopping for purchasing efficiency.

CLP: What kinds of products/services does the company offer the industry?

Catani: At Hardy you will find a complete selection of laboratory supplies, including culture media, rapid test kits, stains, reagents, dehydrated media, animal blood products, gas generators, specimen transports, QC organisms, susceptibility disks, Petri plates, agar-based prepared media and broths, and more. We offer our customers a total selection of more than 10,000 microbiology and lab supply items.

CLP: What new products/services will the company release soon?

Catani: HardyChrom™ Candida is a new differential culture medium that facilitates the isolation and identification of clinically important yeast species. It allows a complete view of mixed populations of yeasts while inhibiting the majority of bacterial species. The product relies on chromogenic substances to reveal specific enzymes for species identification by color. Due to the unique colors produced, no further testing is needed to identify C.albicans, C.tropicalis, and C.krusei. Further testing, such as Rapid Trehalose Fermentation Broth (cat no Z205), is needed for confirmation. C.krusei produces rough, spreading, white colonies.

The StrepPRO Grouping Kit is a latex agglutination test for the rapid identification of beta hemolytic streps; group A, B, C, D, F, and G. A modified nitrous acid extraction allows the group D latex to be used in the same manner as other group latex. All reagents are liquid, color coded for ease of identification, and simple to use. A compact container saves valuable refrigerator space. The kit, which contains reaction cards and mixing sticks, provides rapid, accurate, and easy-to-interpret positive and negative results. Separate components are also available. A complete procedure takes only 2 minutes. Furthermore, we have EnteroScreen 4 to screen enteric pathogens, to differentiate Salmonella and Shigella from stool specimens, and to rule out normal enteric flora.

MycoVue, a ready-to-use slide culture system for the cultivation of fungi, simplifies fungal slide cultures. A built-in humidity chamber prevents desiccation, and the culture can be incubated for long periods of time. The device fits conveniently on the microscope stage for easy observation without disturbing the fungal structures. It is available with Potato Flake Agar (part no MV1) or SABHI® Agar with Chloramphenicol (part no MV2).

The CarboFerm™, which is used for the rapid identification and differentiation of Neisseria spp, including N.gonorrhoeae, N.meningitidis, and Moraxella (Branhamella) catarrhalis, uses acid production from carbohydrates to differentiate and identify Neisseria species and M.catarrhalis. The CarboFerm Neisseria Kit reduces the time required from the usual 48 hours to as few as 2 hours.

StrepB Carrot Broth™ is a new one-step method to screen pregnant women for the presence of group B streptococci. This test is an improvement over conventional methods in that it increases sensitivity and decreases turnaround time while lowering overall cost. Positive results can be reported as early as 6 hours after inoculation.

CLP: Where do you see the industry heading?

Catani: The industry is definitely growing. Molecular biology and polymerase chain reaction are on the rise, but there will always be a need for prepared culture media. As the population grows and Baby Boomers approach their senior years, more laboratory testing will be required. Laboratories are always looking for faster, time-saving microbiology testing methods.

CLP: What is Hardy Diagnostics doing to continue the growth of the industry?

Catani: As a service to the community of laboratorians, Hardy Diagnostics offers an ongoing program of educational seminars that explores current topics in microbiology and laboratory science. Our mission is to provide practical information on current technologies while keeping the cost as low as possible. The company is an accrediting agency and provider of educational programs with the California Department of Health. Hardy Diagnostics also attends about 40 industry trade shows per year to present new products, make new contacts, and meet with existing customers. Hardy Diagnostics has experienced tremendous growth over the last 10 years. We have an active research and development department working to meet the ever-changing needs of our customers. America has the best health care system in the world, and we are proud to be a small part of the system.

CLP: With regard to the industry, what are some issues the company has faced?

Catani: We have found that the large GPOs are dampening the competitive spirit, leading to labs accepting inferior product and substandard customer service. Hardy Diagnostics has built its business on superior product quality and unparalleled customer service and it’s unfortunate that people not qualified to decide what is best for the laboratory now make purchasing decisions.

CLP: What has the company done to overcome these issues?

Catani: We would love to entertain GPO contracts, but the partnerships have to be constructed to be a win-win for the GPO and the supplier. We plan to offer our products and services to the GPOs, but not at the risk of compromising product quality and customer service. Hardy Diagnostics is already contracted with two major GPOs—Catholic Healthcare West and Amerinet—and we would welcome the opportunity to discuss working with other GPOs.

CLP: What would you like CLP readers to learn about Hardy Diagnostics?

Catani: Our company continues to grow each year, at a rate of about 30%. When we realized we were encountering a lack of space we searched the central coast area for the appropriate city to meet the company’s needs. Santa Maria, Calif, was chosen for its relatively low cost of living, motivated labor force, and the quality of life. Three acres of land just north of the Santa Maria airport was purchased and a 25,000-square-foot facility was completed in October 1991 to provide for the needs of this growing company. The facility contains state-of-the-art air-handling systems in clean rooms to ensure the production of a top-quality product. Leadership and attitude toward our customers is from the top down, and that is why this company has done so well over the years. Hardy Diagnostics provides jobs for more than 150 persons. We value our customers and work hard to meet their needs and special requests.

CLP: Where do you see the company in 5 years?

Catani: Hardy Diagnostics will be a nationwide player with the microbiology GPOs. We want to open several new distribution centers nationwide to give our customers faster, better service. The next 5 years will be very exciting times.

Michelle Said is a contributing editor for Clinical Lab Products.
For more information, contact [email protected]