Traction Award winner T&T Scientific expanding to larger facility in Halls

T&T Scientific is about to hit a milestone.

The medical technology startup expects to sign its 1,000th client before the end of 2018 and is moving into an expanded facility.

The Innov865 2018 Traction Award winner and Startup Day 2016 winner is becoming a brand name in the liposome production industry.

Founders Graham Taylor and Nima Tamaddoni, Ph.D., met in graduate school at the University of Tennessee where for four years they worked with artificial cell membranes in an engineering capacity.

They founded T&T Scientific and began research and development with one year left in school.

"We started building prototypes for our first device," Taylor said. "We won a few pitch competitions over the next six to eight months."

The pair won the Boyd Venture Challenge, a seed-fund grant competition that gifted them the startup funds they'd need to launch T&T's first product line.

NanoSizers are the company's main product, Taylor said, used to make tiny nanoparticles called liposomes, which are used in academic research, drug delivery, cosmetics, food and pharmaceuticals, to name a few.

"Previously, making these nanoparticles and making these liposomes was very time consuming and prone to contamination with the types of equipment that were available," Taylor said. "What we do is we make very quick, efficient and clean extruders."

Traditional nanoparticle production is time consuming, expensive and prone to contamination. Competitors devices take 20 to 30 minutes of assembly and require cleaning after. 

It's like the difference between putting a tea bag together and then making the tea or having a box of tea bags ready to go, Taylor said.

"Our product is fully assembled, is disposable, so basically you open the box, use it and then next time you use a new one," Tamaddoni said.

The team won Startup Day in 2016 and walked away with $5,000 to develop their first automated product. At the time they had about 100 customers.

"We’re now at the point where we generate 100 customers in about three months, four months," Taylor said.

In 2017, they launched small scale and large scale automated extrusion equipment and in 2018 launched an additional machine with a different volume capacity. All their products are manufactured in Knoxville.

T&T Scientific also offers in-house liposome manufacturing and research for clients who don't want to purchase the equipment.

In March, the team established a 'boots on the ground' global distribution network — 25 distributors that span 35 countries including France, Australia, Israel and Germany.

“There’s been a noticeable uptick in new customers and in international sales with these distributors," Taylor said. 

The team of six is relocating to a larger, 15,000 square foot facility in Halls by the end of the year that will allow for more production space and room for their contract manufacturing projects.

Taylor said as they scale up the company will potentially hire five to 10 employees.

In addition, T&T Scientific has ongoing research with UT and is collaborating on several government research grants.

“We like the proximity and we feel like there are benefits of being close to this UTK- ORNL partnership," Taylor said. "There’s a lot of talent and a lot of skill." 

Innov865 awarded T&T Scientific the fourth annual Traction Award in September, given to a Startup Day alum that has gained the most momentum in recent years.

"It's reaffirming that we're doing the right things, it's a little bit of a boost of confidence," Taylor said in an Innov865 interview.

Source: Knoxville News Sentinel, by Brenna McDermott

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Published November 12, 2018