WINSTON-SALEM – GLAS, a Winston-Salem company that provides human biospecimens and consulting services to medical researchers, has been acquired by Precision for Medicine of Bethesda, Md.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but the acquired company will remain in Winston-Salem, where it plans to expand.

In addition to buying GLAS, Precision for Medicine acquired another company, ProMedDx, of Norton, Mass., that specializes in biofluid specimens.

GLAS becomes part of Precision for Medicine

The two acquisitions are intended to expand Precision for Medicine’s biomarker services offerings, the company said in a news release. Precision for Medicine operates one of the world’s largest biorepositories and is part of Precision Medicine Group, which employs nearly 2,000 people in the United States, Canada and Europe.

“By bringing ProMedDx and GLAS into the Precision family, we are proud to offer unparalleled, global biospecimens solutions while also expanding our footprint in the exploding Massachusetts and North Carolina biotechnology sectors,” said Chad Clark, president of Precision for Medicine. “We believe in the power of biomarkers to lead to novel, life-changing therapies, and we remain dedicated to providing unmatched, scientifically grounded global services.”

Spotting opportunity in the genomic era

GLAS was founded in May 2015 by medical pathologist Cullen Taylor, M.D., who believed biospecimens were being under-used in genomic-based translational medicine. He saw an opportunity for pathologists to bridge the gap between the research community and clinical care facilities, streamlining the development of precision-based medical treatments.

Cullen Taylor. GLAS photo)

“Clearly, the life sciences industry relies heavily upon medical and scientific insight,” Taylor said. “However, this expertise is often in short supply in biospecimen provision. It’s why we founded GLAS. By teaming up with Precision, we are able to expand this on-the-ground medical expertise to a highly advanced and expansive lab and clinical network — a hugely important distinction in the biospecimen industry.”

GLAS provides tissue samples from its own inventory and from the archives of partnering pathology labs. It also offers special fixation, histochemical staining, immunohistochemistry and other services at its Winston-Salem lab and additional technical resources, including advanced molecular analysis, through its partners.

GLAS takes its name from the German spelling of “glass,” which is used in pathology for studying tissues on glass slides under microscopes that have highly specialized glass lenses.

“So glass is the medium by which pathologists obtain knowledge and insight into the disease process,” Taylor explained in an interview. “The analogy between our name and traditional glass is that our company provides clarity and keen insight to our clients through our expert consultation to enable them to achieve the most efficient and highest quality research outcomes.”

Bullish on the Triad

GLAS is located in the Brookwood Business Park, where it has five full-time employees.

Keeping the operation in Winston-Salem after the acquisition is “of paramount importance,” Taylor said, “and it was non-negotiable that we stay here.” His wife, Michelle Taylor, a former nurse who works for the company, and their two children enjoy living in the Triad area and didn’t want to move, he explained.

Michelle Taylor GLAS photo)

Taylor had leverage on this issue because “we never put our company on the market, and we had many unsolicited suitors,” he said.

Taylor is also bullish on the region’s economic transition from the traditional tobacco, furniture and textile industries toward the biosciences.

Triad cities “have done such a great job of reinventing themselves,” he said. “We’re teeny tiny, but we felt like we were part of that important transformation” in Winston-Salem.

Taylor worked with the mayor’s office for GLAS to become the first company tenant in a formerly blighted area of the city.

“It was important to us to be a good tenant and to grow,” he said. “Now, as part of Precision for Medicine, our impact can be exponential.”

Expansion planned

The company will double its footprint to 9,500 square feet and begin hiring five or six more employees in coming weeks, Taylor said.

“We now have the resources and scalability to be relevant on the global stage,” he said. “We anticipate a significant rate of growth in the coming months, both in terms of revenue and local personnel.”

Once the expansion is complete, the company’s biorepository will archive over 5 million biospecimens.

“We will also launch newly designated space for in vitro diagnostic research activities,” Taylor said.  “Generally these are immunohistochemistry-based studies, but we are very excited to begin looking at opportunities in the molecular space as well.”

The Winston-Salem operation is ISO 9001 certified, an international designation for organizations that can consistently provide products and services that meet customer and regulatory requirements.

“That was difficult to achieve and is a point of pride,” Taylor said. “The main focus for us has been on quality.”

Taylor, who has been a full-time practicing pathologist for a regional health care system, said he would reduce his practice to “a low level” to become the full-time medical director of Precision for Medicine, Biospecimen Solutions.

With the acquisition, “I’ve got the resources and the time to really devote to the growth of the operation,” he said.

Michelle Taylor will continue in her role as director of project management for the company.

The Winston-Salem operation will report to Rob Fannon, the Raleigh-based general manager of biospecimen solutions at Precision for Medicine.

(C) N.C. Biotech Center