Self Serve Lab Consumables Now Available for Startups at JHU’s FastForward with New Thermo Fisher Scientific Partnership

May 21, 2019

Johns Hopkins’ FastFoward has partnered with Thermo Fisher Scientific to provide a lab material stockroom in their incubator. This new offering is yet another solution aimed at helping to streamline business processes for their startups so they can stay focused on advancing their technologies and getting them to the patients.

The FastForward incubator began as a place where you could rent affordable lab space in an old silver factory. Over the past 5 years it has evolved into a program that helps their tenants thrive by providing funding opportunities, mentoring programs, professional services, and now material access. Mark VanderZyl has been a part of the team since the beginning and has helped mold the program into what it is today. He now manages operations and sponsor relationships across two of their facilities, and acts as the intermediary between FastForward’s tenants and the network of sponsors that are committed to helping these companies thrive. VanderZyl explains, “Over the years we’ve been expanding the services we provide, we’re always trying to find a need and fulfill it for our entrepreneurs and startups.”

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FastForward has envisioned this vending area from the beginning and the space has been built out since inception, but VanderZyl says they have been taking the time to find the right partner. “We were brainstorming ways to help our tenants thrive in this lab space, they’re in shared environments and compact benches. Thermo Fisher is a FastForward sponsor, so they are also interested in further supporting the university and ecosystem. They contribute financial and in-kind services like onsite office hours, consultations, and now materials.”  

The stockroom has an open shelving concept where the shopper can simply take the item, scan it, and the purchase will be billed directly to their account. The inventory consists of lab consumable items such as tubes, gloves, kimwipes, pipettes, sharps containers, and any other materials that do not require special storage. The vending area had its first purchase earlier this month during their training demo, showing the added value of the new resource right away.

Buying materials from the stockroom is like purchasing from a convenience store rather than a bulk warehouse. The startups may only need to make a one time purchase of an item or only need a few. With this model they don’t have to buy a giant box of supplies that will cost more and occupy valuable lab space. Thermo Fisher has been meeting with the startups individually to discuss their technologies and what they use on a regular basis in order to tailor the stockroom to their needs. They will then continuously adjust the inventory as companies move in and out of the incubator or if a material is not being used as often. Thermo Fisher has also worked to make the supplies competitively priced, they understand that the tenants are early stage companies where funds are often limited.

Having the stockroom in house is an important feature, if a group forgets to order materials they need to continue their work, they’re not stuck waiting for a delivery. They can simply walk across the hall and purchase what they need without productivity loss from a lack of supplies. Setting up an account for the vending area will now be apart of the onboarding process for newcomers so they have access to the supplies they need right away, “We want our teams to come in and hit the ground running,” explains VanderZyl.

Tenants will be able to order all of their lab consumables exclusively through Thermo Fisher stockroom, but are not required to. VanderZyl says that if the tenants are not ordering from the stockroom they want to know why and how they can improve the inventory or experience for them, “We want to make sure the system that we implemented makes sense for our startups.” Since their inception they have been home to 60 local startups across their various locations, some of whom have already been making headlines.

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