The in-house versus outsourced conundrum
Nikki Robinson – Head of Reagents
Quality raw materials are the base that all great products depend on, but surprisingly, this is part of the process that many companies - particularly those launching a new product or exploring a new direction - take for granted and fail to investigate thoroughly enough.
Of course, a first-rate base material is arguably more critical in some industries than in others, and no-one would dispute the fact that in vitro diagnostics is one of the top sectors where quality raw materials are a must-have. The quality and performance of a conjugate is critical to achieving consistent, accurate results in lateral flow tests.
Creating a reliable, consistent base is key, particularly in the rapid diagnostic sector which relies on high-quality gold nanoparticles for their unique optical, electronic, and thermal properties, alongside excellent stability and high levels of sensitivity.
As someone who’s worked in the lateral flow industry for decades, I’ve seen my fair share of companies who’ve fallen at this first hurdle.
The choice between buying in this crucial element or making it in house can be a tough one for researchers. It can seem like a simple dilemma: the initial cost outlay of outsourcing versus the time spent on creating the gold in-house – but in reality, there are numerous factors that need to be considered when making this decision.
In particularly, this is true for businesses looking to produce larger batches. Although labs that are creating very small custom batches may find some cost savings in creating their own product, they are definitely in the minority and may still struggle to justify the cost of the time required.
It’s also important to remember that creating high-quality gold nanoparticles is a complex, multi-stage process. It is not just a case of synthesizing materials; characterising and creating gold for research and testing is a layered journey which requires a team with deep expertise and experience.
Working with nanoparticles can be challenging. Even having very experienced researchers on the case won’t guarantee delivery of a batch with the requisite quality to carry out a highly-sensitive and stable test. Unfortunately, that means that even if your team has spent days or weeks researching, characterising, and reproducing - small slip ups or a tiny error will result in an unstable batch, taking you straight down the ladder back to square one.
This is particularly true for researchers dealing with bulk batches. Particles lose quality when made in significantly larger quantities – this can wreak havoc on the production process and create significant losses through delay and wastage.
The opportunity cost of producing gold in house can be very high – with huge amounts of expensive man-power required. Then, at the end of this extremely technical and time-consuming process, in-house producers often find their results lack the reliability and uniformity needed.
At BBI, our unique manufacturing technique allows for the production of large batches of gold to a high level of reproducibility of size, dispersion and shape. This creates a firm foundation for conjugation and the reassurance that your assay will provide reliable results.
This approach also delivers time savings creating more R&D time; more tests per volume of conjugate because consistent gold means less waste; a faster route to market by avoiding the delays caused by poor-quality, inconsistent gold; and critically, enhanced sensitivity.
My advice to anyone faced with the in-house versus outsourced conundrum is to assess the cost-benefit ratio of each option carefully. This will be an opportunity to explore all the angles and see whether an in-house approach which may initially seem to deliver savings will stand up to the often-unexpected challenges that this process can throw up.
My very last word on the matter is that the value created through the reliability that a quality raw material provides can’t be overstated – whether we’re talking quality chocolate, or an assay.
If you would like to trial BBI’s stable and scalable gold nanoparticles in your assay, you can purchase from our extensive range online, or simply contact our team of technical experts, who will be happy to discuss how best to swap out gold or conjugates in your assay.