rent-a-lab has been offering services to detect and determine the quantity of biomolecules for around ten years. The company is mainly focused on studies related to the binding of biomolecules to GTP-binding protein-coupled receptors, a field that has attracted a great deal of attention following the award of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2012 for the identification of this important class of receptors.
rent-a-lab managing director and owner Dr. Carsten Tober is particularly proud of his company’s name and sees it as a unique selling point. Although his company does not offer actual laboratories for hire, what clients can hire is comprehensive laboratory services. Tober’s laboratory along with his highly qualified and experienced employees and an outstanding range of methods and equipment carries out work on behalf of clients from the pharmaceutical and biotech industries as well as independent and academic research institutions. All these clients value rent-a-lab as a specialist in radioactive and biochemical assays.
rent-a-lab offers a variety of methods ranging from receptor binding assays, enzyme assays and radioimmunoassays and selects the ones to be used for any given service in consultation with its customers. Methods can also be adapted to clients’ specific requirements. Complex, out-of-the-ordinary issues require comprehensive consultation. “Rather than providing off-the-shelf services, we offer professional solutions that are adapted to the specific requirements of our clients. We start the project by talking to our clients in order to find out what they want and need,” said Tober. Tober always manages to find a solution, even when a client needs something Tober is unable to offer himself. “If a client has a problem and we don’t have an appropriate solution, we pass them on to a specialist within our network whom we trust,” said Tober who has many contacts thanks to his long-standing experience in his chosen field of activity.
The company’s experience is no accident: rent-a-lab has been operating successfully for around ten years. Tober himself has been active in his field of competence for much longer and has managed to find successful solutions to most crises in his time. He started his career as a postdoctoral student in the biochemical laboratory of a contract research company which was initially based in Berlin before relocating to Reutlingen. The company went through difficult times and eventually became insolvent in 2009. For Tober this turned out to be a unique opportunity to set up his own company. With financial support from his family, he bought part of the assets of the insolvent company and established rent-a-lab. “This helped me turn a long-standing dream into reality,” said the biochemist pointing out that the company is still financed with private resources, and so Tober remains his own boss.Tober was fully aware of the complex market situation in the contract research business and began looking for an activity that would create a solid basis to provide him with a basic income. Iodination caught his eye. “The labelling of biomolecules with radioactive iodine-125 generates a constant revenue and is still our basic business; this type of service covers our running costs,” Tober explained. The clients who contract rent-a-lab for iodine labelling services are mainly from academia where many researchers still work with own, in-house assays.
Receptor binding assays, in particular those that involve receptors bound to GTP-binding proteins (GPCR, GTP-binding protein-coupled receptors or G protein-coupled receptors), are one of the company’s major services. GPCRs span the cell membrane and signalling molecules bind to a GPCR domain outside the cell. The binding of signalling molecules leads to conformational changes that result in the activation of the GTP-binding protein inside the cell (GTP: guanosine triphosphate). The GTP-binding protein activates a cascade of further signalling events, which can considerably amplify the original signal. Adrenalin is one such a signalling molecule. GPCRs constitute a large and important protein family of receptors. They were identified by Robert J. Lefkowitz and Brian K. Kobilka, who were awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2012 for their achievements.
rent-a-lab also deals with particularly tricky GPCR investigations. “The receptors often have allosteric binding sites, which can only be investigated in detail using special methods. While the actual signalling molecules bind to the orthosteric binding sites, regulatory and modulating substances can bind to the allosteric binding sites. We have suitable methods for investigating the binding of medical substances to such allosteric binding sites. We concentrate mainly on drugs that are used for the treatment of central nervous system diseases,” said Tober explaining that bindings of this kind can only be analysed using functional, cell-like systems. rent-a-lab has both the equipment and the know-how to do this.
rent-a-lab also specialises in the examination of interspecies differences. Tober explains: “Producers of drugs that target human GPCRs need to carry out specific animal experiments before marketing authorisation is granted. However, the behaviour of the receptors can differ between different animals and also from the original drug screening system used. Such species-specific differences are rather irritating and can cause big problems.” rent-a-lab offers interspecies investigations using a broad range of different animal tissues that enable the company to analyse potential differences and exclude potential problems early on in the process.
The rent-a-lab team uses radioactive tracers for its analyses, a field in which the company has extensive experience. “Radioactive labels have the big advantage that they barely modify the original molecule, whereas fluorescence labelling involves the attachment of relatively big dye molecules. Therefore, some issues are best solved with radioactive tracers,” said Tober. It is specialisations like these that make the small company so successful. The company also carries out own research, but this is of secondary importance. Tober explains: “We are a pure CRO, contract research organisation. Of course, we do invest some money and time in research, especially when we see there may be potential for our market; but we don’t do it very often.” Instead, the company closely monitors and analyses gaps in the market that it might be able to fill with its existing expertise. “If we identify a new field, or one in which only a small number of companies is active, we will of course always try to position ourselves in that particular field,” said Tober.
Further information:rent-a-lab Dr. Carsten ToberAspenhaustr. 2572770 ReutlingenPhone: +49 (0)7121/ 515 367 - 0