Calgary is home to a good number of highly trained scientific minds, and Nanalysis can boast of its fair share of them. The company has successfully designed and is manufacturing a nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectrometer that is attracting customers worldwide.
Nanalysis president and CEO Sean Krakiwsky left Calgary for California after being drafted by the Los Angeles Kings of the National Hockey League, but returned to earn his bachelor of science in electrical engineering at the University of Calgary, followed by his master’s degree in 2003.
While at university he met fellow PhD student Greg McFeetors, who was developing micro electro mechanical systems (MEMS) chips to detect NMR signals, using force detection NMR rather than conventional induction NMR.
Krakiwsky decided to set up a company to commercialize the technology, and Nanalysis was born in 2008.
Soon after, he met Garrett Leskowitz, who held a PhD in chemistry from the California Institute of Technology and had written his thesis on the same subject. McFeetors joined Nanalysis as director of engineering and Leskowitz was persuaded to relocate to Calgary and take on the role of chief science officer.
Together, the two scientists worked on the application development program that resulted in the current bench-top version that provides access to high-resolution NMR spectroscopy at a fraction of the cost, complexity and ongoing expense of traditional, large instruments.
Never an easy game launching a company that needed to spend a lot on research and development, Krakiwsky went back to his hockey mantra of perseverance and faith in his team. It has paid off handsomely, especially in the knowledgeable and experienced management team he has built.
Susanne Riegel, director of marketing and product manager, and Heather Phillips, director of operations — both chemists — earned a bachelor of science from the U of C. They continued their education at Dalhousie University in Halifax, where Riegel received a master of science and Phillips got a PhD. Riegel returned to the U of C to earn her doctorate.
Both reminisce of having to book time to use a huge mainframe-style spectrometer for their studies, so they are excited to be working on a Nanalysis bench-top model that students in many universities are now able to use.
Director of manufacturing and magnet research and development Neil Gallagher has a master of science in electrical engineering from the U of C, sales manager Matt Zamora earned his PhD in chemistry at Mount Allison, and director of business development Bruce Lix has a bachelor of science in chemistry and an MBA from the University of Alberta. The formidable management team also has a star player in CFO Gary Reavie, who has 35 years of finance experience.
The 40 staff in Calgary includes 14 bachelors of science, 12 PhDs and five master of science scientists, and that number is about to increase to cope with the growing demand for its family of compact, portable bench-top NMR spectrometers, observable nuclei, and available accessories. They allow chemists, researchers, engineers and students to perform spectroscopy tests wherever and whenever they need.
That means taking more space in its Pockar Park facility that is also a manufacturing plant. As well as being designed and engineered in Calgary, the spectrometers are machined here with the exception of the powerful, rare-earth magnets concentrated in a honeycomb-shaped field — which are only available from China — and a few other needed items that are made by local vendors.
Even the printed circuit electronic boards containing up to 400 parts are designed and built in the Nanalysis plant.
To date, more than 570 units have been sold to academic, research, and government and industry users in 40 countries. They include such names as MIT, Harvard, King’s College London, Honeywell, BASF, Johnson & Johnson, BAM, Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute, and the Indian Ministry of Food Radiation & Isotype Tech.
The biggest markets are the U.S. and Europe, where an office has been opened in Frankfurt.
Krakiwsky believes there is a need for 100,000 Nanalysis units through its current network of 40 specialist international distributors. That means more capital investment in machinery and specialized staff. The company has had offers to purchase but the initial group of local investors say they are willing to invest more to keep the company in Calgary and “build a global billion-dollar business here” — this month Nanalysis will be traded on the TSX Venture Exchange.
More capital will also allow Krakiwsky to purchase five complementary companies, a move that will help accelerate its promising growth.
David Parker appears regularly in the Herald. Read his columns online at calgaryherald.com/business. He can be reached at 403-830-4622 or by email at email@example.com.