Symbion Systems

Symbion Systems creates process control software for controlling and linking laboratory and process analytical instruments, with a focus on spectroscopy. Founded in 2002 as a sister company of Axiom Analytical, which has supplied spectrometers to chemical process manufacturers for more than 25 years, Symbion’s beginnings were rooted in previously developed business relationships. In addition to interfacing with various instrumentation, Symbion’s software is also compatible with other companies’ software, making it easier to tie the instrumentation into software for statistical process control and other data manipulation software. The company’s main products are the Symbion-DX, RX and LX. The DX is the company’s basic process control software platform, the RX is a Process Analytical Technology (PAT) (see IBO 2/15/05) compliant version of the DX, and the LX is software that is tailored to laboratory settings.

Dr. Mike Doyle, president of Symbion, spoke to IBO about the company. The idea for Symbion grew out of a request for Axiom from Exxon. “The key corporate group for chemical process development said that their ability to install new instrumentation was limited by, among other things, the fact that they had to deal with so many software packages from different companies, and that it would help their work if they had one standard software package to use for all of their instruments.” Symbion’s parameters were defined from the get-go by the requirements sent to them by the Exxon engineers.

Currently, the biggest end-user segment for Symbion is petrochemicals. One new development in the energy sector that Dr. Doyle expanded upon is the increased use of spectroscopic and other analytical monitoring due to higher gas prices. A new approach to monitoring crude oil is one application for which Symbion is developing software in partnership with an un-named company.

Symbion is also currently making inroads in the pharmaceuticals industry with partner GE Fanuc, albeit not as fast as the company initially believed. Symbion is linking its software with GE Fanuc’s Proficy production management software. Dr. Doyle said, “The nature of our agreement gives them the primary responsibility of rights in the life science area, whereas we retain the rights in other areas. We also stay involved because we have responsibility for instrument driver development.” When the PAT initiative was issued by the FDA an opportunity for increased interest in Symbion’s products by the drug industry seemed imminent. But, as Dr. Doyle explained, the FDA requires complete revalidation for an existing process, therefore, pharmaceutical companies are generally only adopting the PAT for new processes.

Symbion does not only do business with the end-users, nor does it solely function through partnerships. “A major part of our effort is to market directly to the instrument companies to get them to adopt Symbion as the standard interface, at least for process analysis, if not for all of their software requirements,” Dr. Doyle stated. He also explained “Several instrument companies pay us to develop drivers. The earlier products are at a point of final release. But, in other cases, end-users have provided funding, and if need has been high enough, we will provide funding ourselves.”

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