Inaphaea laboratory ready

Inaphaea BioLabs: the journey to setting up a new laboratory

Earlier this year, our parent company ValiRx announced the launch of Inaphaea BioLabs – a subsidiary company offering a wide range of pre-clinical and drug discovery testing services to academic, biotech, and pharmaceutical researchers.

Inaphaea’s Preclinical Project Manager Zai Ahmad took on the task of setting up the new laboratory, drawing on her previous career experience to ensure the process was as smooth and efficient as possible.

In this blog, Zai explains the journey to building the labs and integrating the scientific assets acquired from Imagen Therapeutics.

Having had previous experience setting up a laboratory from scratch for the Institute of Cancer Research, after its principal investigator moved to the UK from the US, I was keen to take on the project management of the Inaphaea lab setup, to ensure that all equipment is optimised for the company’s work and used in the most efficient, effective way, alongside applying the principles of Good Laboratory Practice (GLP) at all times.  

Our aim was to create a lab that allows us to promptly progress our in-house projects by setting up validated assays on commercially available cell lines and going on to look at more advanced in vitro assays once these are established. 

Following ValiRx’s successful bid for Imagen Therapeutics’ scientific assets, which includes an extensive biobank of patient-derived cells (PDCs), we had just three weeks to arrange the lab move and transfer all relevant equipment from Daresbury and Manchester to Inaphaea’s facility at MediCity in Nottingham.

Transferring scientific assets

The first step was to gather quotes from removal companies who could fulfil our request at such short notice. We were soon introduced to Restore Harrow Green Laboratory Services who quickly stepped up to the mark, offering a great amount of flexibility and a strong track record of lab removals, which was particularly important to us, given the fragile nature of some of the kit. Harrow Green’s capabilities meant that we could keep our ultra-low temperature freezers (one of which is kept at -150 degrees!) plugged in during the journey.

Throughout the move, we were adamant that nothing useful would go to landfill and so any equipment that wasn’t transferred to Inaphaea was either sold to other local laboratories or to a second-hand company. This also extended to consumables, and keen to see nothing go to waste – I returned to Manchester the following week in a hired commercial van, determined to collect everything that could be utilised! The consumables that were left over were offered to the remaining resident labs.

We planned the layout of the lab before the initial move, so we selected all the equipment we planned to keep. To accommodate the freezer that stores the biobank, we had to arrange for adjustments to the lab bench to be made, as well as the installation of industrial plugs, all under tight deadlines, that thankfully the team at Roshal was able to fulfil. This pre-planning meant we could position the larger pieces of kit in the most appropriate and convenient positions in the lab. 

Back in Nottingham, countless cardboard boxes were unpacked, and equipment cleaned down and connected up. We soon began to see the lab come to life.

Future development

With CO2 incubators now installed, calibrated, and commissioned, and a temperature alarm system being fitted, we are well on our way to becoming fully operational and have started establishing and expanding on our patient-derived cell lines.  

My role at ValiRx has evolved significantly since I joined last year, and I now wear many hats – balancing the project management of the Cytolytix project with the Inaphaea lab setup. As clichéd as it may sound, no two days are the same and I love the dual nature of my role, combining hands-on project management with the science. I am particularly enjoying working with PDCs again and look forward to continuing to support Inaphaea’s development and growth.

Lab launch event 

On 26 September 2023, Inaphaea is holding an official launch event supported by BioNow. There will be opportunities for a tour of the new laboratories, networking with fellow professionals in the sector, and talks from scientific experts.

To register for the event, please click here.