BioMarin Center of Technology empowers scientists with technology, resources, and collaboration
For a scientist, access to cutting-edge technologies, rare resources, and expert support can turn a new idea into a groundbreaking discovery. The BioMarin Center of Technology (CoTe) offers this access to scientists across our organization – helping them bring their best ideas to light and gain invaluable skills in the process.
A centralized laboratory within WWRD’s Research and Early Development hub in San Rafael, the CoTe consists of three advanced core facilities. Similar to a university setting, 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
All three of CoTe’s core facilities are staffed by team members with years of formal training and hands-on experience in their skill areas.
“In terms of utilization or developing new applications, the platforms are open-ended, making them incredibly powerful,” says Harry Sterling, Director and Head of CoTe. “And, they often provide data that you can’t get in other ways. This is why we offer a team of experts to help our clients get the most out of each step in their process.”
Harry goes on to explain more about the full spectrum of support that a BioMarin scientist can receive from the CoTe team. “Some of our clients come to us with no experience in these technologies, but wonder if the instruments can be used to analyze a particular set of samples or answer a biological question,” Harry says. “For those colleagues, we take the ball and run with it, helping them design and execute their experiments. For others, we offer varying degrees of support, ranging from help with optimizing the sample prep, analyzing their samples, interpreting the data, or designing internal controls or standards.”
Huiyu Zhou, Director of the Mass Spectrometry Core, notes that the CoTe’s resources are available to all BioMarin scientists, at any stage of their work. “We don’t prioritize drug development work over earlier drug discovery work; we believe our entire scientific community should have an equal opportunity to access these platforms and expertise,” she says. “This also lets us get to know our colleagues who are involved in fundamental discovery early on, and then help them make the transition from discovery to development more efficiently down the line.”
“We partner with a lot of scientists across BioMarin, and they’re thankful to have the help and resources,” adds Adam Harris, Director of the Research BioBank. “It allows them to use their time and department funding on other things, like optimizing assays, working with animal tissues, advancing cellular projects – whatever they need to do to push their projects forward.”
Key to the support BioMarin scientists receive through CoTe: training. “In addition to hands-on help, we also provide our scientists with opportunities to learn to use the instruments themselves,” says Harry. “To date, we’ve trained dozens of colleagues to become self-service users. This can be especially empowering for our early-career research associates and scientists, who have the chance to stretch out, expand their technical capabilities, and try something new.”
One of those research associates – Dejie Zhou – is now a full-time member of the CoTe’s Flow Cytometry core, which he joined at the beginning of the year. “I was working in BioMarin’s Bioanalytical Science (BAS) group, spending almost all of my time generating clinical data,” Dejie recalls. “I always had an interest in flow cytometry but never had the chance to get hands-on experience before joining the CoTe. Now, I’m helping 3-4 different research groups use this technology at any one time, and the experience has been invaluable.”