The Silicon Review
Mass spectrometry is a highly technical analytical tool that is widely used in Pharma & Biotech research, food testing, environmental testing, clinical laboratories, and academic research. In the complex environment of Mass spectrometry labs, the need for a one-stop-shop was apparent since the majority of LC/MS systems were a combination of hardware from two or three vendors, thus rendering servicing and maintaining this complex set up a challenge for laboratories. Initial diagnostics were often misleading which resulted in extended downtime. Even routine maintenance was a challenge, where customers had to coordinate with their respective vendors and were forced to make their system available to them for an extended period. This challenge was more pronounced for Contract Research Organizations (CROs), as they were making money running LC/MS/MS systems in a production setting, and any extended downtime was very detrimental financially. Added to this situation, another challenge did arise which was to get a harmonized instrument performance qualification done, as required by FDA and sponsors. Here again, the coordination and approval of multiple documents were necessary. Zef Scientific’s success was very apparent, especially with these organizations, and its focus was initially on one specific Mass Spectrometer brand which had a large installed based. The initial hub of business was in New Jersey since there were significant numbers of CROs established closer to NJ’s traditional Big Pharma.
A discussion on Zef Scientific, Inc. with Dr. Zoubair El Fallah, President
Q. How successful was your first project roll on?
Our first major project was with a big New Jersey CRO that had a significant number of LC/MS/MS systems. While the initial incentive was cost saving, they were also very interested in experiencing our harmonized Qualification package which fulfilled a gap in their Quality system requirement. It was a great entry point for us to portray our knowledge and expertise, and to also have them as a reference. We have succeeded in meeting and exceeding their expectations and we are still doing business with them.
Q. What challenges did you face in your initial years?
Being mainly a service company, we are dealing with non-tangible products. The customer needed to be assured that his selection of ZefSci will bring the value and peace of mind he or she is looking for. We needed to project confidence and to make good on our promises for fast and high-quality growth service. We had to deliver at all cost and no matter what backend pain we had; enduring that was the only option. Without an engaged and committed team to this idea, we wouldn’t have survived. Ultimately, our front-end connection to the customers; i.e., our field engineers had to be the most responsive and technically capable entities in this challenging environment.
Q. Is it true that striving for both ‘ethics’ and ‘success’ in a business is a tough feat?
We believe that ultimately when a business is more concerned about the success of its customers than just realizing a quick profit, the results are always positive for the company. We know that the reward we seek will ultimately come with patience and perseverance and that is why our goal is to have a long-term relationship with our clients. This has brought us reputation, steadiness, and references. When you are building such a relationship-based business like ours, being ethical and trustworthy is a key aspect of gaining the trust of your customers. You want to be in a situation where your customer does not only look at the purely economic aspect of the relationship but rather considers and weighs the full aspect of the relation, where ethics do play a pivotal role. Hence, we pride ourselves by always doing the right thing no matter what it cost, and we are an honest and unbiased adviser, purely based on our know-how and expertise.
Q. What is the global outreach of ZefSci today?
Global outreach is important. We believe that in today’s world, customers are globally looking for the same thing. This is why we identified India as the next market for our services and have opened an office in the Mumbai area last year. The demand for healthcare is raising there and local Pharma companies and CROs are witnessing increased demand. It is shaping up to be a great market for us already.
In Canada, we have struck a deal with Shimadzu Scientific to become their official distributor for their chromatography and mass spec equipment, and the market is also increasing due to stringent testing requirements, notably in the legal cannabis market there.
Q. Where do you see you and your company a couple of years from now?
The market for testing is still expanding at a very healthy rate (6 to 7% globally). Regulations are becoming tougher and tougher, and the limits of detection are been challenged all the time. Therefore, we should expect more technological advances in terms of instrumentation, and more demand for our services. We have a good base now, and our expansion through partnerships and adding more geographies to our portfolio is underway steadily. We have now direct local service in Texas and Kansas.
Dr. Zoubair El Fallah, President: Zoubair grew up in northern Morocco and was educated in France, obtaining a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from the University of Grenoble and a Ph.D. in Analytical Chemistry from the University of Pierre & Marie Curie (Paris VI). After his graduation in 1989, Dr. El Fallah moved to the USA and was a Post-doctoral fellow at the University of TN-Knoxville where he pursued research in Preparative Chromatography under the late Prof. Georges Guiochon. After few years at Waters as a Sr. Scientist, Dr. El Fallah established the US operations of LabMetrix Technologies, a harmonized Multi-Vendor compliance outfit, that was sold to Perkin Elmer.
He has published several papers in scientifically peered journals and has presented many of his research contributions to national and international meetings dealing with separation science and chromatography.
“We started with the vision that a complex LC-MS-MS environment requires a highly technical team with multi-disciplinary knowledge and a strong dedication to customers and their applications. This vision and our strong business ethics have led us to be recognized as a premier independent engineering and scientific organization specializing in state of the art chromatography and mass spectrometry.”