“Things don’t correct themselves, you’ve got to go out there and work hard to correct them.” – Tom Brady
This is exactly what Quad Technologies has done under the determined leadership of CEO Sean Kevlahan: identify a problem, fix it, achieve success. This is Quad’s strategy in a nutshell, but, as we know, building a successful business is not easy. Success requires inquisitiveness, preparation, inventiveness, teamwork, execution, vision, and grit.
The story of Quad’s success begins at Northeastern University where Kevlahan was a PhD student in Chemical Engineering. While surveying the field of cell separation, he identified a problem: the process of isolating cells was marginally successful. He found that traditional methods of cell separation could only isolate about 50% of initial cell stock to purity levels required for viable research, and this deficiency translated into excessive waste, blistering cost, and constricted discovery.
Uniting traits of engineer, scientist, and entrepreneur, Kevlahan and his co-founders launched Quad Technologies and determined that developing a superior method for removing magnetic beads used to isolate and activate T cells was the place to start. The solution crystallized in QuickGel™, Quad’s foundational technology that makes novel use of a biocompatible, dissolvable polymer for rapidly capturing and releasing cells off substrate without deleterious effect. QuickGel™ combines the process of bead removal, purification, and activation, and when paired with Quad’s second solution, MagCloudz™, cells with QuickGel™ coated beads can be magnetically manipulated, purified, and then depolemorized, which results in magnetically label free cells — all with astounding speed and accuracy: billions of cells separated in roughly 2 hours at a success rate upwards of 95%.*
Kevlahan identified what wasn’t working, i.e., a 30% loss of cell viability at the point of bead removal, and pioneered a solution built upon what was working, i.e., approved polymer and traditional beads.
“Something common to a CEO and a scientist is having a problem,” he says, “And something more common to the both of them is the drive and ability to solve it.” Clearly, this drive permeates Quad’s approach to innovation.
“There are many ways to release cells, but it can be difficult to keep those cells intact when you release from substrates,” Kevlahan notes. But, there were early signs the effort was worthwhile. “We saw a lot of commercial interest,” he recalls, “People coming to our laboratory and saying how cool the chemistry was and how broadly applicable.”
Enter the entrepreneurial element.
Kevlahan, a natural entrepreneur, refined his talent with classes at Northeastern’s D’Amore-McKim School of Business. During these classes, he perceived the critical role selling has in a successful venture. “Selling is what an entrepreneur needs to know how to do well,” says Kevlahan. “A key characteristic of a good entrepreneur is his belief in his product, a vision and an ability to sell his idea,” he adds.
Early on, Kevlahan also discerned the supreme importance of judicious team building. He observes:
As CEO, your team is your ace card. To define success you need an incredibly strong and highly specialized team. A team which shares your vision and a co-founder who sees your dream. As a researcher you try to solve all the problems yourself, but as a CEO, you spend time picking a team which helps you tackle any problem thrown at you.
Now, Kevlahan has a recruited a diverse, highly specialized team of 15 employees who take great pride in their work and diligently strive toward the realization of his vision. Without question, he has mastered the playbook of team selection and vision selling.
The hard work is paying off.
Quad’s solutions are significantly impacting the T-cell market and continue to find application anywhere cell purity and functionality are highly prized, e.g., gene cell therapy and Immuno-Oncology. But, that’s not all the good news: in June 2018, Quad was acquired by Bio-Techne Corporation.
With a robust line of 300,000+ products that spans biotechnology, diagnostics, and protein platforms and revenue currently exceeding $560M (and projected to crest $1B by 2022), Bio-Techne is perfectly positioned to extend the reach of Quad Technologies.**
Enthusiasm is palpable.
For Charles Kummeth, CEO of Bio-Techne, Quad’s offerings ‘represent a breakthrough in process improvements for clinical grade cell and gene therapy applications as well as for research use.’ And, for Kevlahan, the shared vision and strategic alignment between Quad and Bio-Techne has set the stage for global impact. He declares, ‘Bio-Techne provides us with the resources and quality proteins needed to functionalize our reagents … [and] … the broader array of products, the additional marketing and commercial resources will serve our customers more efficiently and allow our products to be available on a global scale.’***
Attaining global reach will surely present challenges for Quad Technologies. But, evidence shows that CEO/PhD Sean Kevlahan will not be deterred. In challenge lies opportunity, and for this enterprising, scientific mind who is backed by a gifted team and a compelling vision, there is little doubt that game-changing solutions will result.
Watch this video to learn more about Quad’s MagCloudz Kit.
Written by Divya Parikh and Brice Tennant.
*SENS Research Foundation, Rejuvenation Biotechnology Conference 2016, “T-cell immunotherapy: Catching Up to the User Requirements.”
**Bio-Techne Corporate Presentation, June 2018.
***Press Release, Bio-Techne to Acquire Quad Technologies.