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BioMarin’s Center of Technology empowers scientists with technology, resources, and collaboration

Science | January 28, 2022

Harry Sterling received his B.S (University of Missouri), M.S. (Northeastern University), and Ph.D. (UC Berkeley) degrees in chemistry and has focused his career on applications of mass spectrometry, and analytical chemistry more broadly, in the life science and biopharmaceutical industries. He is currently the Director of the Center of Technology at BioMarin Pharmaceutical. Outside of work, he enjoys snowboarding with his wife and daughter, practicing yoga, and learning the classical guitar.

For a scientist, access to cutting-edge technologies, rare resources, and expert support can turn a new idea into a groundbreaking discovery. That’s why I’m so proud of BioMarin’s Center of Technology (CoTe), a centralized laboratory within our Worldwide Research and Development’s Research and Early Development hub at our campus in San Rafael, California. Let’s go on a brief tour!

Introducing CoTe

Consisting of three advanced core facilities, each core specializes in a specific platform technology:

  • Flow Cytometry Core features instrumentation that couples fluidics with lasers to analyze and/or sort individual cells, based on a wide variety of molecular markers or cellular phenotypes
  • Mass Spectrometry Core offers instruments for the quantitative and qualitative analysis of molecules – regardless of the class, size, sample complexity, or phase of matter
  • Research BioBank facilitates what are often very rare biospecimen acquisitions, based on sustained relationships with partner organizations around the world

Each of the core facilities are staffed by team members with years of formal training and hands-on experience in their skill areas. The team is critical in helping the many different research areas at BioMarin dig deeper into the biology because, thanks to the open-ended nature of the platforms, they are incredibly powerful and often provide data that you simply can’t get in other ways.

The BioMarin CoTe team, counterclockwise: Adam Harris, Huiyu Zhou, Dejie Zhou, Ioanna Ntai, Bo Sun, Jeremy Van Vleet, Donald Ruhrmund, Harry Sterling, and Ming Cheng

A Spectrum of Services, a Philosophy for Service

Our team provides a range of services, ranging from help with optimizing sample prep, analyzing  samples, interpreting data, or designing internal controls or standards. Some researchers come to us with no experience with our technology but are curious to see if the instruments can analyze a particular set of samples or answer a biological question. For these colleagues we take the ball and run with it, helping them design and execute their experiments.

The CoTe offers a broad spectrum of support to BioMarin scientists – from full service to consultation

The CoTe offers a broad spectrum of support to BioMarin scientists – from full service to consultation it’s important to note that CoTe’s resources are available to all scientists across our Worldwide Research and Development organization, regardless of what stage of work they find themselves in. This has a side benefit of allowing us to get to know our colleagues who are involved in fundamental discovery early on, then help them make the transition from discovery to development more efficiently down the line.

CoTe Senior Scientist Ioanna Ntai checks the status of projects in the Mass Spectrometry Core

Not Just a Service, an Education

CoTe’s benefits don’t just lie in our services – we also offer training so colleagues can learn to use our instruments themselves. To date, we’ve trained dozens of colleagues to become self-service users. This is especially empowering for our early-career research associates and scientists who now have a chance to stretch out, expand their technical capabilities, and try something new.

One of our former clients, who was a heavy user of our resources, is now a full-time member of CoTe’s Flow Cytometry core. Dejie Zhou was working in BioMarin’s Bioanalytical Science group and spent a lot of time generating clinical data. Despite an interest in flow cytometry, he’d never had a chance to get hands-on experience before working with us. Today he’s helping 3-4 different research groups use the technology at any one time.

CoTe Research Associate Dejie monitors projects in the Flow Cytometry Core

A Model for Services Everywhere

When it comes to the CoTe, there’s a lot to be proud of. Not only do we help colleagues bring their best ideas to light, but we also provide an opportunity for our colleagues to grow their careers by developing a deeper understanding of these tools and applications while tackling the very challenging genetic disease targets that make BioMarin an incredibly rewarding place to work.