Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt filled a time slot of his congressional recess with a stop in Rolla Tuesday at noon, for a tour of MO-Sci, the Day family’s high-tech specialty glass production and testing facility. Fascinating products and a successful collaboration with Missouri S&T made for an interesting visit.
Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt filled a time slot of his congressional recess with a stop in Rolla Tuesday at noon, for a tour of MO-Sci, the Day family’s high-tech specialty glass production and testing facility. Since Sen. Blunt currently serves on the Senate’s powerful Committee on Appropriations, the committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, the Subcommittee on Defense and is chairman of the Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies, among others, he wanted to see a successful example of a collaboration between research and product commercialization.
Delbert and Ted Day gave an overview of the company’s 30 year history and plans for the future of the corporation and it’s other businesses, MO-Sci Specialty Products, MO-Sci Health Care and most recently, MO-Sci Precision Materials. “The latter was a way for us to vertically integrate and make our own raw materials (glass thread particulate that looks like sand) for blood-typing products,” says Ted.
Once these companies are broken down, they are actually a family of twelve businesses.
Adding to his father’s comments about the company history, Ted Day said Mo-Sci is a company that was formed based on an unmet need.
“A lot of people look at the success of MO-Sci being a small [specialty-products] company,” he says.
“The reason [for our success] is, we don’t have a lot of competitors. If you look at the pipeline of service we have, we have competitors in certain segments of the business, but not in its entirety. The reason for that is, we’re not looking at a product and then going to develop a market—we’re looking at the need that already exists and then develop a product that meets that need.”
He says MO-Sci then tries to tie that back to a company that is already in the industry space to commercialize it.
“We’re not commercializing experts,” he notes. “We’re material science experts within the glass and ceramic world.”
During the tour, Ted Day spoke of the origins of MO-Sci’s latest soft tissue wound healing product, Mirragen, that has been recently cleared by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) for commercialization. “We licensed the technology with the university and developed it into a product,” he said.
“We went to wound care companies within the industry who tested the product and they all said “no.” He said they tested the material and found that it works by an entirely different process. His explanation for the turn-down is it puts all the other wound care company’s products on the shelf.
“It can be a low-cost product that is a paradigm shift for military, our VA and commercial use in hospitals today,” he notes.
“What we’ve done is start a commercialization company, because the big wound care companies said no— they didn’t want to cannibalize their sales. (They said) “We’ll predict that this little company in Missouri isn’t sophisticated enough or wealthy enough to go ahead and get a product through the FDA. Day says the FDA had never seen the Mirragen material, but got it approved within five months—a record at the FDA for testing and processing an unknown material.
“MO-Sci Corporation does all the contract R and D (research and development) work for the government, commercial and corporate entities,” he says.
“A lot of companies use us to outsource their glass QA (quality assurance) work. This was the original company that dad formed in ’85.”
MO-Sci Specialty Products was started in 2000 to produce non-healthcare-related products, such as their bond-line spacing products which are micro-glass beads put into adhesives, ensuring the right amount of glue is applied to different bonding materials. According to Day, Mo-Sci is the sole supplier for 92 percent of the Fortune 500 companies.
Day then gave Sen. Blunt and other tour guests an overview of the latest MO-Sci Health Care Products, such as Mirragen, the “cotton candy-like” wound care material.
“Is this a product for the field?” asked Sen. Blunt.
“This is used for wounds that no other product is indicated for—Class 3 or 4—where the wound reaches down to the bone and underlying tissue,” answered Day. “This material clots [blood] twice as fast as what’s in every soldier’s Go Kit right now.”
Day had mentioned earlier in the tour that he was the ninth employee hired at MO-Sci.
“If you were number nine, how many employees do all of these companies have now?” asks Sen. Blunt.
“We have between 40 and 50 employees now,” said Ted. “ETS (engineered tissue solution) is where we expect to see some real growth in the near future, and we will grow as their sales drive more fiber production. We have a 90,000 square foot facility already engineered that goes on the back property.”
Cancer treatment technology, nerve regeneration, orthopedic devices, wound care and more are all in the MO-Sci product mix; but they couldn’t have done it alone. They have capitalized on licensing and production partnerships with Missouri S&T and Washington University in St. Louis.
“How much of the “R” in “R and D” is being done by Washington University and S&T?” asked Sen. Blunt.
“The majority of the medical research work that we now manufacture for, is being done at S&T. We do a lot of what I call form-factor development here, taking the bio-active glass, the boric base glass and the converting it into “form-factors”—fibers, coarse granules, foam regeneration, etc.
During the close of the lunchtime tour, Blunt asked one of the guests, outgoing Missouri S&T chancellor Cheryl Schrader about grants for product development that could lead to licensing deals. He mentioned that he chairs the committee for National Institute of Health (NIH) funding and wondered aloud about financing more collaborations between private companies and public institutions like universities and talked about the current change within the FDA to be more responsive to product testing and the companies that represent those products.
Sen. Blunt commented, “I’ve seen them be more corporate responsive than I’ve seen in the last 20 years.”
“Maybe our five month deal (Mirragen approval) is a great example of that,” said Day. “It caught us by surprise. We thought it would be 12 months.”
Day said the government recognized back in the 80’s that small businesses were where 95 percent of new technology was innovated and developed, but it was only commercialized by big companies successfully.
“The government said, these small companies which were university spinoffs, were very technically oriented, but in the business world, they can’t sustain that first three-to-five years in business, because they’re not businessmen—they’re technical people,” he explained.
“So, the government came up with a very good plan and said we will fund these small companies with Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) money for the sake of research.”
Day says the application was twenty pages—nineteen pages of technical information and one page of commercialization details. Now, he says it is just flipped over with most of the information based on getting the product to market. It’s all about accountability.
He says they (SBIR people) are asking, “If you received a quarter of a million dollars two years ago, how are going to generate jobs well into the future?”
Day states Mo-Sci doesn’t do a SBIR application today without including their research collaboration with Missouri S&T researchers. “That collaboration adds to our success.”
“Take the Mirragen wound care project,” he posits.
“The Dept. of Defense funded some of that [research] initially with the university (Missouri S&T). That developed an entire patent portfolio that the university owns. We licensed that in 2011 and have other patents, in addition to their patents, that we have rolled back into the university so that the portfolio is stronger in its entirety.”
“People ask, “why would you give them back [to the university]?”” he questions.
“I say it’s because it’s licensed to us.”
Chancellor Schrader added,” We’ve had a tremendous relationship. We want to bring value to the partnership and because of this, we’re stronger together.”