Sometimes you know that you need detailed light scattering analyses of your protein, polymer or nanoparticle, but your company just doesn’t have the resources, bandwidth or expertise to do so. That’s when a contract research organization (CRO) specializing in these techniques can offer the perfect solution. ZentriForce Pharma Research in Heidelberg, Germany maintains state-of-the-art light-scattering (and other) instrumentation and a staff of senior scientists that are proficient in providing analytical services to the pharmaceutical industry, with an emphasis on biosimilars and gene therapies. Here Dr. Marius Schmid, CEO of ZentriForce, provides a glimpse into his journey to science, light scattering and contract analytical services.
Please tell us about your background: where you grew up, studied, and why you chose the field you did.
I grew up at Lake Constance and attended the University of Constance where I studied chemistry with a focus on physical chemistry. During my studies my attention was on the analysis of synthetic nanoparticles. In my doctorate thesis the focus shifted toward method and theory development in hydrodynamic techniques, such as asymmetrical flow field-flow fractionation and analytical ultracentrifugation.
During my time as a post-doc at the National Center for Macromolecular Hydrodynamics (NCMH) in Nottingham I took the opportunity to gain experience on the analysis of biological materials such as proteins and virus particles.
Ever since leaving the NCMH, I have been working in a contract research environment in various positions and companies, where I was able to gain work experience in a GMP environment. Over the years I have developed analytical methods for a large number and variety of samples, ranging from small peptides over antibodies and AAVs to liposomes, viruses and particles larger than 100 nm.
What does your current position entail? How does it tie in to your previous experience, and where is it going?
ZentriForce Pharma is a contract research organization that focuses on hydrodynamic techniques such as asymmetrical-flow field-flow fractionation (AF4), light scattering techniques and analytical ultracentrifugation. With the growing interest in advanced therapy medicinal products (ATMP), analytical service providers must adapt to the requirements that need to be fulfilled for these kinds of APIs. This is the point where our experience helps us to overcome the new analytical challenges.
In what context did you first learn about light scattering and Wyatt instruments?
During my doctorate thesis we acquired Wyatt’s Eclipse™ AF4 instrument with a DAWN® multi-angle light scattering detector. I used the instruments extensively and have been working with Wyatt instruments ever since.
How have your Wyatt instruments contributed to your research and development studies?
With the start of ZentriForce Pharma two years ago, one of the first steps we took was to reach out to our contacts at Wyatt Europe and get a quote for an AF4 and a DLS system. We use an Eclipse AF4 with DAWN MALS detector and an Optilab® differential refractive index detector, as well as a DynaPro® Plate Reader DLS/SLS instrument. The AF4 system is used in two modes, AF4-MALS as well as SEC-MALS, and is constantly busy.
The DynaPro Plate Reader gives us the ability to not only run large measurement campaigns, but also to assess the thermal stability of a large number of samples. We can either apply a heat ramp to assess the aggregation temperature or compare the thermal stability of many samples simultaneously in an accelerated stability testing (e.g. 40 °C or 50 °C for several days or weeks).
Analysis of samples on our Wyatt instruments is crucial for many customer projects, and satisfied customers repeatedly reach out to us with other projects or follow-up studies.