Labs Find Love, Ahem, Leads Online

Her blue eyes and smile and his rugged good looks are just the incentives he or she might need to click open a profile on an Internet dting stie. Microbiologists, too, find these lures on a Web site that brings labs and life science companies together.

Pork purveyor ponders rancidity rancher for superior food safety. Cooked lobster meat processor in China seeks a phosphorus-finding lab for regular, quality tryst. Honey maker longs for pollen counter.

While the wording might not be exact, this is the gist of what life science companies and contract laboratories find at www.contractlaboratory.com.

“We’ve been compared to an Internet dating site before,” says Ron Murray, director of the Calgary, Alberta, Canada-based Internet company. “We bring people together.”

The site not only offers leads for labs seeking work in a host of industries, including food and beverage, nutraceutical, agriculture, pharmaceutical, medical devices, biotechnology and cosmetics, but it is also an e-marketplace for careers, advice, products, articles and case studies.

The search for a contract laboratory that can do everything from testing for total phosphorous in frozen cooked lobster meat to chemical residues in nutraceuticals and pharmaceuticals perhaps starts in the yellow pages, gradually progresses to a reliable trade journal and then ultimately ends up on the Internet.

At least that’s what Murray and Pamela Wertalik, company president and a former safety officer in the FDA’s New Jersey office, are hoping. And it seems to be already happening for the 18-month-old startup. Last year, the site help make 381 connections. At the time of this report, 335 connections had already been made in 2005 and Murray estimates that the site will do in excess of 1,000 for the whole year.

Casting a Line

There are plenty of fish in the sea when it comes to contract laboratories and probably even more situations – compromising and uncompromising.

As with any Internet dating site, the bashful and bold can flourish by simply casting a line to see who bites.

Visitors to www.contractlaboratory.com are encouraged to register for membership, which is free and allows access to search and browsing functions for labs or jobs. Once a new member’s information is received, a randomly generated password is e-mailed to them for future log-ins. The membership does not, however, allow access to laboratory test request, business opportunities and product requests details and contact information.

But a company, say a food processor, can submit a laboratory test request for free. Required information includes testing type, urgency, description and requirements. The company has the option to remain anonymous by simply typing “confidential” in the company name, location and contact information section. That was the case of the frozen cooked lobster meat processor in China.

The request is then posted on the “Incoming Test Request Database,” and labs meeting requirements are often found with 24 to 48 hours, Murray says. “The worst case scenario is I can’t find them a lab,” he adds. “Another worst case scenario is that I find them 10 labs in two days.”

One of the main aspects in assisting a company find a lab is honing on federal requirements. Murray says because the FDA has drastically revamped microbiology provisions over the last year, “there’s a lot of hand-holding to be done.”

“We are often asked about pricing, but we don’t get into that. All we do is say, here’s the lab, its location, a link to its Web site and a name. At that point, the lab also has the opportunity to give it their best sales pitch,” he says. “There is no downside to putting a request for a lab on our site. It’s always free.”

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