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Columbia Business Monthly

DPX Technologies looks to the future from new Columbia facility

Oct 10, 2019 02:11PM

By Richard Breen

Photos ©2019 Brian Dressler / dresslerphoto.com

Four patents line a hallway inside the new headquarters of DPX Technologies in SCRA Research Park.

"We have more to come,"� says Dr. Kaylee Mastrianni, the company's director of operations.

And not just patents, it seems. The 12,000-square-foot facility has space to grow on the inside and the five-acre property has room for expansion, which company founder Dr. William Brewer can already envision.

Having already been profitable for several years, and with some major customers ready to come on board, DPX continues to be a homegrown success story in a state that's known for recruiting businesses from elsewhere.

"They were able to take advantage of an ecosystem that did not previously exist,"� says Sam Konduros, president and CEO of SCBIO, which promotes the life sciences industry in the Palmetto State. "More than ever, we now have the ability to grow our own companies."�

SCBIO counts 678 life sciences companies in South Carolina, covering 43 of the state's 46 counties. A 2017 study measured the industry's economic impact at $11.4 billion and more than 40,000 jobs are directly or indirectly connected to it.

For DPX, the ecosystem began at the University of South Carolina when alumnus Brewer returned there to teach in 2007. In between, he had worked as a forensic toxicologist at the S.C. Law Enforcement Division.

"That's where all these ideas came from,"� Brewer says.

DPX stands for Dispersive Pipette eXtraction. The company produces pipette tips used for chemical analysis in forensic, food safety, medical and pharmaceutical environments. Its products are seen in labs where activities such as toxicology testing or cancer diagnostic research take place.

"Our products are for a more sensitive, analytical test,"� says Mastrianni, who's been around DPX since 2013, when she was a UofSC grad student.

In keeping with recent trends, DPX products have become part of a test that helps differentiate whether someone has hemp or marijuana in their possession.

"We sell products to all the military labs,"� Brewer says. "The S.C. Department of Agriculture uses our products for pesticide analysis in fruits and vegetables."�

Hatched in a UofSC incubator

Brewer launched DPX inside the USC Columbia Technology Incubator. He also used space in the school's IdeaLabs.

"We helped with patent filings and we helped with licensing deals,"� says Chad Hardaway, deputy director of UofSC's Office of Economic Engagement, which oversees the university's tech/startup infrastructure.

Manufacturing took place at the Midlands Technical College Enterprise Campus in suburban Columbia.

"One of our key partners is Midlands Tech,"� Hardaway says. "DPX is one of our big success stories. Bill is a great example of somebody who benefited from our design, which is to help people all along the way."�

Brewer says the company was profitable by its fourth year and has added customers steadily.

"We're getting ready to add two of the largest clinical labs in the world,"� he says.

DPX manufactures more than a quarter million products per month. They can be found in a dozen countries. Mastrianni says one of DPX's selling points is the ease in which its products can be used in an automated environment, enabling a lab to process up to 96 samples at a time.

"We're making it easier for people to develop cancer diagnostics,"� she says.

In the new facility, which represents a $2.5 million investment in real estate and equipment, DPX is able to bring lab, office and manufacturing space together.

"It's provided awesome infrastructure,"� Mastrianni says. "We don't have to run things across town to be tested. We have additional training facilities."�

DPX currently has 20 Columbia employees, plus a few others working at a lab in San Diego and in sales in California and Massachusetts.

"If you visit us in five years, we may have 50 employees in Columbia alone,"� Brewer says. "We're already looking at landscaping plans and expanding manufacturing as we grow."�

While Brewer is originally from North Carolina and Mastrianni is a native New Yorker, both say they've established family roots here and hope to stay. Continuing to grow while remaining in the Palmetto State is music to the ears of life sciences industry officials.

"It was very difficult in years past to hold onto a company like this,"� Konduros says. "We're very grateful they want to be here."�