StatSpin Inc, doing business as Iris Sample Processing, was founded in 1984 in Westwood, Mass. Today, the company manufactures products that enable clinicians to separate plasma from whole blood in less than 30 seconds. The company develops, manufactures, and markets sample-collection and processing devices, as well as instrumentation labs.
CLP spoke with Pam Pasakarnis, vice president, sales and marketing, about the company’s newest products and future direction.
CLP: Was there more than a name change involved in transitioning from StatSpin to Iris Sample Processing?
Pasakarnis: We changed our name to Iris Sample Processing in 2005 to align our division with our parent company, Iris International Inc, and to better describe our strategic direction. In addition to providing small laboratory instruments for rapid blood separation, we are positioning the division to address multiple sample-processing opportunities as they evolve. We’ve kept the StatSpin name on our products because of the strong brand recognition in the human and animal health markets. Our recent entry into molecular diagnostic sample processing, the ThermoBrite for processing slides for fluorescent in situ hybridization, is one example of our diversification into other sample-processing areas.
CLP: Is Iris going to expand its role in fluorescent in situ hybridization (FISH) technologies?
Pasakarnis: In 2004, we entered the molecular diagnostics market with our first product in the area of sample processing for fluorescent in situ hybridization. FISH has become a mainstream technology for molecular pathology procedures performed in diagnostic laboratories. Our core competencies in rapid sample processing and small laboratory instrumentation allowed us to enter this growing market segment. Our StatSpin ThermoBrite System automates the denaturation and hybridization steps in slide-based FISH procedures, and provides walkaway convenience for clinical and research personnel. We consider the area of FISH technology to be an attractive space. It’s a higher value of testing that consists of few competitors, therefore offering more market opportunity for a company like ours. Additionally, we have secured several OEM partners for our ThermoBrite system, providing for rapid penetration into this market. We have quickly become one of the leading suppliers of benchtop processing stations for this market. The market for FISH technology is evolving, especially in genetic testing and tumor markers, and is quickly growing to be a major segment of our business. FISH has been around for many years, but it is continuing to find more mainstream applications each year. Our R&D group continues to work on new innovations in this area.
CLP: What kind of developments do you see on the horizon for centrifuges?
Pasakarnis: When I first joined the company 4 years ago, customers would tell me how much they loved the StatSpin Express 2 units used in many of their laboratories to provide serum or plasma in just 2 minutes. This addressed their need for stat cardiac, chemistry, and coagulation testing. But they would all say that they needed to run more samples and larger tubes. So we developed the StatSpin Express 3 rapid centrifuge that holds eight tubes up to 10 mL, and can still prepare serum or plasma from whole blood in 2 minutes. At the same time, laboratories have started to change their processing methods to address the need for speed. Turnaround time (TAT) has become the tool to monitor laboratory performance, and that is where the StatSpin Express 3 has made a big difference.
CLP: Where do you see the market going? What needs will labs have in the coming years, and what is Iris planning to do to address them?
Pasakarnis: As I mentioned, there is a need to have faster turnaround times. Many laboratories are looking at their workflow to assess their current operation and develop a “lean laboratory.” They are using Six Sigma and Lean Flow analysis. The goal is to improve operational efficiencies and ultimately save time to results. One aspect of this is what is called “single-piece flow.” This means that instead of waiting for all samples to arrive and then batch processing them in large conventional centrifuges, many of our customers will have several Express 3 units; and as samples arrive in the lab, they will continuously be processing the samples by spinning for 2 minutes and putting the sample right on the analyzer. Recently, I heard of an emergency room that was actually drawing patient blood upon arrival, spinning in the Express 3 in the ER and processing a panel of emergency tests even before the patient saw the physician. When the physician arrived, he or she could immediately make decisions based upon a clinical evaluation and the test results. This hospital had improved the length of time a patient spent in the ER from an average of 4 hours down to 1 hour.
CLP: How are you differentiating yourself among your competitors?
Pasakarnis: Addressing the needs of our customer is paramount to our success. Because test turnaround is so crucial, it is important to reduce processing time wherever possible. This is an area where we excel, and we will continue to focus on this as we develop new products. That’s why our StatSpin Express 2 and now StatSpin Express 3 have become so important in the laboratories. Additionally, our products are small, quiet, and reliable. We are looking at the bigger picture and are working with other diagnostic companies to help address the turnaround times for our customers. Several large diagnostic companies will recommend or even purchase our Express 2s and 3s to place next to their chemistry or coagulation analyzers to improve TAT. We currently have more that 12,000 Express units situated next to all leading manufactures’ analyzers.
CLP: What would you like to see Iris Sample Processing do in the next 5 years?
Pasakarnis: I believe we will continue to be the leader in rapid sample processing. We currently have several products in development, and we will continue to assess our customer needs to determine how we can provide new and innovative solutions. We are collaborating with other companies in the diagnostics market and expect to develop or codevelop products with them. Our research, development, and manufacturing capabilities allow us to further expand our market position. Iris Sample Processing is a global company that is part of a much bigger entity, Iris International Inc, and we have more resources than most companies our size. In 2006, Iris International Inc acquired Leucadia Technologies, a molecular diagnostic company with near-term products for detecting relapse for various cancers and HIV. You will be hearing more about our molecular diagnostics portfolio in 2007 and the years to come.
CLP: Is there anything you would like to tell readers about Iris Sample Processing?
Pasakarnis: We are proud of the quality of our product line, and we back this up with excellent service and a comprehensive warranty. We have a trained, dedicated staff of medical technologists who provide technical support to our customer base and distributor partners.
Zac Dillon is associate editor of Clinical Lab Products.