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Applied Science

CirQuest Labs helps pharmaceutical and medical-device companies test their potential products.

photograph by Olivier Le Queinec | Dreamstime

Device and pharmaceutical companies are always in need of testing services. Pharmaceutical companies require analysis of compounds in the pipeline that are being considered for new drugs and laboratory reports about how the drug will work and its possible applications. Medical device companies need tests run on their products to determine if product processing is up to standard and if the products are compatible with blood and tissue.

To meet that industry need, a Memphis scientist, Dr. Lisa Jennings, founded CirQuest Labs, located at 955 Madison Avenue. From research and discovery to marketing studies and clinical trials, CirQuest provides a comprehensive evaluation service. “It’s a niche we have that is really needed by the industry because it’s hard for them to have every expertise they need,” Jennings says.

To Jennings, it’s also a valuable opportunity to work with companies on projects that may ultimately affect people’s lives. “We try to be more collaborative with the industries. We consider ourselves a life-science services company — an extension of the work they do.”

Director of vascular biology in the Department of Internal Medicine at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center’s College of Medicine, Jennings says her research there is basic and focuses on clotting and bleeding issues in cardiovascular disease. It is work that has enabled her to put specialized contract laboratory services into the private sector. “I really like bridging the basic with the clinical,” she says. “I really have a passion for both.”

Her research has a transitional component and she sometimes uses it working with professors who need assistance in biotech start-up companies. It was by expanding her research in both basic and translational biology that led her to starting this value-added services company that could directly work with the pharmaceutical and device industries. “CirQuest Labs is a way of translating that basic knowledge into an activity that can improve drug and device development and ultimately patient care,” Jennings says.

She started CirQuest in 2008, but the lab wasn’t officially open for business until 2009. CirQuest is a core laboratory, helping pharmaceutical companies carry out safety testing and analysis, so they can determine if a drug is working as anticipated. CirQuest also can provide the service of writing protocols for clinical trials and performing analytical testing of samples that are submitted for testing. Sometimes, personnel go to hospital sites to conduct tests.

“We can use our science know-how to help them put in the best project to increase the amount of data that can be used for running these clinical tests,” she says.  “We help them carry out evidence-based medicine.”

For device companies, the lab performs necessary quality-control checks. When a medical device is approved for production, processing steps must be taken to ensure the pieces are finished properly before they are sent into a clinic. CirQuest performs these necessary tests to make sure the post-production parts are adequately treated in processing tanks or other procedures required to ensure they are ready to be used by doctors.

The companies CirQuest does business with range from small start-up companies to Fortune 500 companies. “We’ve worked with large companies both on the device and pharmaceutical side and we’ve done global projects,” Jennings says. She and some of her seven employees, made up of RNs, Ph.D.s, and laboratory technicians, have traveled to Europe and to the Middle East to provide services to large industries for global clinical trials.

CirQuest has another area of business that comes as a natural progression: bio-storage.

“Companies come to CirQuest from all over the world, and we can provide the ideal storage conditions for their samples,” Jennings says. “These are considered assets in companies — to have these samples from clinical trials that, if needed, they can go back and do additional testing, or if new information comes to light about a certain disease or drug, then they can go back to these samples, with permission, to do new and different testing.”


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