Telescope is a chemical technology company. We develop tools and chemical processes that accelerate the deployment of chemicals and pharmaceuticals to the market. Telescope’s aim is to bring modern chemical technology solutions to meet the most serious challenges in health and sustainability.
Tell us about yourself?
My academic background is in organic chemistry; I studied at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. I’m passionate about chemistry, but beyond this, I want science to matter. When I was studying, I wanted the fascinating research being done at UBC to be translated beyond the lab to be built into technology that would benefit people and make an impact on the world. That’s how I got into research management and knowledge translation, right in the Department of Chemistry at UBC. I’ve since managed multi-million dollar research programs in pharmaceutical chemistry, process manufacturing, and automated, self-driving laboratories.
I carried this experience into my role as VP of Operations for Telescope. We’ve only been operating for about a year and a half, but our clients include pharmaceutical giants like Pfizer, Amgen, and Roche, companies in the mining space like Hatch and Standard Lithium, and even Canadian government bodies such as Natural Resources Canada. Getting the science behind Telescope picked up by these entities has been hugely gratifying.
If you could go back in time a year or two, what piece of advice would you give yourself?
Invest in educating the public and the chemical and pharma industries on the high potential of new process chemistry technologies.
What problem does your business solve?
We close the gap between discovering a valuable chemical and commercially deploying that chemical at scale. This challenge currently requires decades of development efforts to understand exactly how a complex chemical synthesis works. Even once the process is understood, months or years of optimization studies must carefully balance economy, safety, efficiency, and sustainability. Telescope’s approach dramatically shortens these timelines with tools that provide extremely rich data sets very quickly. Within just a few experiments, we are able to delineate the mechanism of a reaction, prevent the formation of unwanted side products, and even identify optimal purification strategies.
What is the inspiration behind your business?
Telescope is a spin-off from Prof. Jason Hein’s academic research program at the University of British Columbia. This program studies a huge variety of chemical systems, from pharmaceutical candidates to solar cell materials to organic lasers and critical minerals. But in all of these areas, we faced a recurring challenge: the tools we have to understand how molecules are made are just not insightful or efficient enough. This bottleneck causes a massive delay in deploying crucial materials – materials that are often needed at much faster time scales than they can be prepared. COVID-19 therapeutics or clean energy materials are great examples. We launched Telescope to develop and deploy new enabling technologies that can get us there faster.
What is your magic sauce?
A lot of chemistry research and development is moving towards robotic automation and higher throughput. This method presents many efficiency gains, but fundamentally it’s a brute-force approach. It’s trying thousands of different conditions for synthesizing a single molecule and seeing which work. But it doesn’t provide detailed insights about HOW or WHY a process is working. If something about the reaction changes, say, the scale of it, the reaction may fail, and the brute-force approach will need to be repeated.
At Telescope, we combine robotic automation with unique analytical tools that enable us to “look inside” a chemical reaction in real-time. The combination of chemistry expertise, automation, and analytics enables us to diagnose a reaction and make very fast decisions to optimize it. This shortens R&D timescales from months or years to days and weeks. We have launched our first commercial product, the Direct Inject Liquid Chromatography (DILC) system, to share this capability with the world.
What is the plan for the next 5 years? What do you want to achieve?
Our company has two major revenue streams: contract research and product sales. Contract research enables us to resolve chemical manufacturing issues directly for the global chemical and pharmaceutical industries. These projects also guide us to develop products that fit market needs. Over the next five years, we will expand our contract research activities, increase the adoption of our Direct Inject Liquid Chromatography (DILC) product, and develop next-generation technology products that align with our mission. We aim to establish Telescope as a partner of choice for process laboratory tool integration.
Beyond these revenue streams, we will continue building our Intellectual Property portfolio to establish lasting value for Telescope.
What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far?
As a leading-edge technology company, we are trying to shift the way that chemical research is conducted. We’re, therefore, faced with an adoption barrier while the chemical and pharmaceutical industries learn about the advantages we present and implement new processes to adopt our technology. As we continue to educate the public and the industry, we have been able to overcome these barriers.
How can people get involved?
We will be exhibiting and presenting a few talks at the 2023 Canadian Chemistry Conference and Exhibition in Vancouver, June 4 to 8. Please stop by to learn more about our company, or message us at [email protected] for quotes on contract research offerings or our DILC product.