JPK Instruments

Founded in 1999 in Berlin, Germany, JPK Instruments AG is a supplier of atomic force microscopes (AFM) and accessories for life science research. AFM measures the physical, electrical and magnetic forces on a sample surface with subnanometer resolution. In life science research, AFM is used to image the surfaces of living biological samples under physiological conditions. “Samples range from single molecules, to the imaging and behavior of whole cells. The environment will normally be a liquid, while both qualitative and quantitative studies are made,” explained Gerd Behme, general sales manager for JPK Instruments

Launched in 2002, the NanoWizard, JPK Instruments’ first product, combines AFM and optical microscopy for the simultaneous examination of the surface and internal structure of cells. “Bio users need to be able to combine multiple experiments in liquids on a single platform,” said Mr. Behme. The NanoWizardII was introduced in 2006.

The company’s ForceRobot system, released in 2007, is based on single molecule force spectroscopy and is designed for real-time studies of molecular interactions. According to Mr. Behme, “force spectroscopy provides the necessary sensitivity to characterize biomolecular interactions, such as the unfolding forces of single proteins or forces of a single chemical bond.” The ForceRobot system was developed by nAmbition GmbH, a company initially funded in part by JPK Instruments and acquired by the company in January.

Nambition was JPK’s second acquisition, following the 2006 purchase of light power instruments GmbH (lpi). Lpi is responsible for the company’s third technology, optical tweezers. “After asking potential users about their requirements, we saw this as a field with tremendous potential,” Mr. Behme told IBO. JPK Instruments will launch these products this spring.

JPK Instruments has grown quickly and became profitable in 2002. Mr. Behme attributed the company’s success to its focus on nanobiology, the technology and scientific experience of its Board, as well as its work with customers. “The company has used this [focus] as a platform to perform as a solution-based organization responding to customer needs, rather than trying to be product or technology driven, which has been the failing of the early suppliers of SPM [scanning probe microscopy].” He added, “while SPM is still a growing technique, it has slowed down to a point of saturation in some sectors. Too many competitors have been trying to supply total solutions, while JPK has successfully pin-pointed markets with needs for new technology.”

JPK Instruments is currently expanding. “Having focused the business in mainland Europe to develop a positive reference base, JPK is embarking on a progressive expansion worldwide,” explained Mr. Behme. “In March, we will open a direct sales and applications facility in Cambridge, UK.” The company is also looking to expand its distribution network in Asia and the Americas. In addition, the company continues to evaluate other technologies. “We have proved we are prepared to acquire companies with synergistic skills, and we will continue this approach as well as look to licensing technology where appropriate to enhance solution development,” stated Mr. Behme.

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