Sterilex recently added a new microbiology lab to our facility. We spoke with our Senior Microbiologist, Sara Halaszi, to discuss how this addition will enhance our research, and enable us to continue raising the bar in microbial control.
STX: At Sterilex, much of our focus is on improving ways to control biofilm. Why is the role of a microbiologist essential in finding ways to fight it?
SH: Understanding biofilms is critical in producing effective solutions for the control of biofilms. Biofilms are widespread in nature, can negatively impact, and lead to biofilm communities in; food processing, food quality, water treatment, biosecurity and animal health environments to name a few. The new microbiology lab will be outfitted and equipped to handle, grow and test against robust biofilms. This “real-time” hands-on testing will aid in understanding how to create enhanced biocides against a diverse population of biofilm.
Why was it crucial to build an in-house microbiology lab?
SH: An in-house microbiology lab allows Sterilex to have control of the entire efficacy testing process. We will no longer have to wait in a queue to have our products tested or to receive testing results. The sooner we can get our results, the sooner we can start the regulatory approval process for new claims, which in itself has a long timeline. This will save not only time but also money as contract labs charge a significant overhead rate. Additionally, we can accelerate our internal research and product development initiatives since we will not have to wait to ship samples to another lab, wait to be fit into the contract lab’s testing schedule or wait to receive the results. Our formulation scientists simply walk down the hall to have testing completed. This will shorten their wait time for determining if they must tweak their new formulations or can begin the commercialization process. Having an in-house capability ultimately allows Sterilex to be innovative both from a regulatory and product perspective
What will this better enable your team to do, and how will it complement your research?
SH: The new microbiology lab allows us here at Sterilex to conduct our own testing from ideation to finished product. This includes not only efficacy testing for regulatory agency claim submissions but also research. The research and development team (which has doubled in the past two years) can more effectively work together and see through ideas that may not have previously been able to be carried to fruition due to testing limitations. This communication will span company-wide to add more personalized care and solve customer needs to a specific problem.
What did you need to consider when building the lab?
SH: There are many things to consider when building a new laboratory from scratch. Having a full understanding of the array of testing capabilities desired for the lab was Step #1. From there, my expertise in standard method efficacy testing allowed me to properly fill the lab with the knowledge, materials and equipment needed for conducting such testing safely. Of course, this also needed to be completed with a timeline in mind to facilitate product development efforts. Setting up this lab quickly was ideal with our formulations chemists always innovating, having new formulas and gently reminding me they had things for me to test.
Were there any setbacks or unforeseen issues?
SH: As with any big undertaking, there are setbacks and unforeseen issues that will arise. Ordering and juggling the deliveries of pieces of equipment required for a functioning microbiology laboratory to arrive at approximately the same time was a challenge. Setbacks occurred in processing, shipping and the installation of many pieces of equipment and we certainly weren’t void of that. Also, the build-out of the laboratory itself presented difficulties. Juggling timelines of architects and construction crews as well as, anticipating completion dated to have a place to put large incoming pieces of equipment was a group effort.
What are you most excited about now that we have a fully functioning lab?
SH: As a microbiologist, there is nothing more exciting than getting your hands dirty (don’t worry, proper PPE will, of course, be worn in the laboratory) and conducting efficacy testing on a brand-new product. I’m excited to be able to produce a quick turn-around time to the formulation chemists who are developing these state-of-the-art products, as opposed to the 4-6-week contract lab waiting times they have had in the past (that is for one test). Developing new methods to test a wide array of innovative products that aid in solutions to an ever-changing microbial world is a large part of what I love about being a microbiologist and working for Sterilex.