That was the logic behind the MultiLoop, the brainchild of Augusta biobusiness owner Teena Enriquez. The tool combines the functions of tools including an inoculation needle, spreader, dental pick and inoculation loop. It was recently patented in China, and a patent is pending in the United States.
Enriquez is the founder, president and CEO of Integrated Science Systems, a company that develops, produces and manufactures in vitro diagnostic test kits.
The MultiLoop is a Swiss army knife of the laboratory, Enriquez said, and can be used in many fields, ranging from dentistry to microbiology. She and her employees are already using the tools in inoculating cultures and other processes in the lab.
A few years ago, Enriquez wondered why someone had not combined the two tools used most often in a microbiology lab: an inoculation loop and an inoculation needle. She and her employees were using plastic dental picks as needles, and she experimented by gluing the two tools together.
She eventually worked with an engineer to draw up plans and developed more precise plans with a firm in Texas that specializes in medical devices.
She wanted the MultiLoop to be produced in the U.S. and made with recycled plastic, but the prices American companies quoted for her would mean taking a loss on the product. Each of the four molds would cost $40,000 to produce, she was told, and the tools would cost 25 cents each to make. The tools sell for about 20 cents each, she said, so she reluctantly shopped outside the U.S.
“It took some soul-searching,” she said.
The MultiLoop is being produced by Runlab Labware Manufacturing Co., a Chinese company that Enriquez contacted about six months ago. It was able to make the tools for 3 cents each and charged only $4,000 per mold. Having the tools made in China also meant they weren’t made out of recycled plastic, but Enriquez said she believes she made the best decision for the long run.
“It really is sad, but that was the way it worked,” she said.
The MultiLoop will be shipped to her in about a month, at which time she will take it to area hospitals and laboratories to sell. It will be available in loop sizes of 1 and 10 microliters and lengths of 3 and 6 inches.
She and Runlab are in talks to take the MultiLoop to South America and Africa. Enriquez has worked in science since 1979 and has never invented anything else. What excites her most about the MultiLoop is that it will make so many jobs easier.
“When I can walk into a lab and see it being used, that’s going to be fantastic,” she said.