I recently talked with Zhiyong Wang Ph.D, CEO of ADS Biosystems Inc. ADS Biosystems specializes in cell-based assay development. In particular, Zhiyong applies his experience and expertise from the renowned Hunter Lab at the Salk Institute to develop assays with brown and white fat, routine human cell lines, human adult stem cells, and rodent cochlea.
Check out more on his background and inspiration below.
Q: What were you doing before you started ADS Biosystems?
Zhiyong: From 2002 – 2009, I was a research associate in the Hunter Lab at the Salk Institute. The lab is fantastic and everyone enjoys developing and working on their own projects. It’s a great environment with diverse expertise and collaborative spirits. Tony encourages people to be independent and explore what inspires them. Tony co-founded the Signal Pharmaceutical Inc., which is now part of Celgene Corp. Therefore, it is not surprising that a few people from his lab have started their own companies.
I was researching metabolism, obesity, and diabetics with mouse genetic models, and discovered crucial roles of transcriptional master regulators in obesity and glucose resistance. I was fascinated with fat cells (adipocytes) in particular.
That was the reason why I was recruited to a local stem cell company that planned to build a brown fat program from scratch. At that time, there were exciting discoveries that adult humans have brown fat, which burns energy and may be used to combat obesity and diabetes. I was really excited about the project and enjoyed building the brown fat program from the ground up. I discovered a family of small molecule compounds that induced brown fat formation from human adult stem cells. I also developed a platform to discover novels compounds, which induce brown fat formation in obese patients to burn extra energy.
Another project at my previous company started with a Department of Defense (DOD) grant. As you know, some of our soldiers at Afghanistan and Iraq experienced battlefield noises and lost their hearing. We wanted to restore their hearing by stimulating stem cells in cochlea to regenerate inner ear hair cells, which are responsible for sound wave sensing. As the lead scientist for the project, I developed cochlear organ culture-based assays to identify candidate compounds, which induce hair cell regeneration. Our hearing team was great in that we really enjoyed working together and we were very productive: we generated two patents for the compounds of hearing restoration and discovered a novel pathway critical for inner ear hair cell regeneration.
Q: Why did you create ADS Biosystems?
Zhiyong: My experience at my previous company and Salk showed me that I could build things from the ground up, and I liked that aspect very much. I am a free-spirited and adventurous type of person. I had the dream of one day starting up my own company. It only made sense to start up a biotech with my experience and expertise.
We created ADS Biosystems Inc. with three goals: 1. To start off, we want to provide services to academic and industry customers with assay development and molecular biology. We have found that there is a market and need in San Diego for cell-based assay development, and we are uniquely positioned to meet this need. 2. As a mid-term goal, we are developing diagnostic products for human diseases. 3. We are laying the groundwork for drug development for human diseases, which is our long-term goal.
We are very successful as a startup company with a lot of customers, and we now have a few partners that we are proud of, such as Eton Biosciences, Explora Biolabs, and Science Exchange. We strive to provide the highest quality services and products to our customer. It’s quite satisfying to know that we have return customers that value what we can provide. It’s crucial to have a great team working together. We are fortunate to have not only scientists with diverse and complementary skills and expertise, but also a team member who has successfully created a few startup companies.
Q: Who are the scientists that work at ADS, what are their backgrounds?
Zhiyong: The scientists here at ADS Biosystems are veterans of biotech industry and academic research with extensive experience in biochemical and cell-based assay development, molecular biology, and in vivo rodent models of human diseases. We enjoy working with our customers to meet their budgets and time lines, and we are proud of end products we provide to our clients.
Q: How is your experience using Science Exchange?
Zhiyong: We have had wonderful experience working with Science Exchange. Everyone is very professional, truly courteous, and highly efficient. We are proud to have Science Exchange as our partner.