Imagilin Technology rounds out incubator

Facility, now open one year, is full

Thursday, Feb. 9, 2006

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Tom Fedor⁄The Gazette
Henry Ahn (left) of the Maryland Technology Development Corp. listens to Jhy-Jhu Lin, CEO of Imagilin Technology at a welcoming reception for the company Friday at the Frederick Innovative Technology Center incubator at Hood College.

This time last year, the new business incubator at Hood College in Frederick had two tenants and was in the process of admitting a third.

It is now full.

at a glance

CEO: J.J. Lin Founded: 2003 Annual revenues: less than $100,000

On Friday, the incubator — formally the Frederick Innovative Technology Center Inc. — hosted a reception for its newest tenant, Imagilin Technology LLC.

Imagilin rounds out the incubator’s roster of 17 clients, eight of which are on-site. The others use incubator services but aren’t physically at the 10,000-square-foot facility, said Cheryl Mullican, an executive assistant with FITCI.

The incubator, which has six commercial labs and 10 offices, was initially projected to house between 12 and 20 businesses. It has fewer tenants than that because some use both lab and office space.

Imagilin Technology, established in 2003 by CEO Jhy-Jhu Lin, produces and sells three nutritional supplement products to veterinarians, pet owners and farmers. Eventually, Lin said, he hopes to produce supplements for humans, too, to be sold in health food stores.

MitoMax and MitoBoost are sold for pets in the United States and parts of Asia; MitoGrow, for farm animals, is sold only in foreign markets. Lin calls them ‘‘alternative medicines.” Imagilin is working with scientists from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to develop products for humans, Lin said.

The supplements use probiotics — microscopic organisms that naturally occur in humans and animals.

The idea behind the supplements is to enhance the naturally occurring probiotics in the animal’s gastrointestinal tract to promote digestive health.

Probiotics avoid some of the pitfalls of antibiotics, he said. Antibiotics, said Lin, can give rise to ‘‘super” bugs, bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics.

‘‘Antibiotics kill good bacteria and bad bacteria indiscriminately,” Lin said. ‘‘With probiotics, the naturally existing microorganisms, what we do is go into the GI tract, we stimulate to build up the [the balance of good microorganisms]. The [bad] bacteria, fungi won’t be able to attach to the GI tract, so they cannot infect [the subject]. We also found that probiotics stimulate the immuno-response, by accident.”

The Frederick incubator should work well for the company, said Lin, whose wife, S.Q. Lin, is Imagilin’s principal scientist and CFO.

‘‘We actively looked at several different incubators,” Lin said. ‘‘Some didn’t have space, some didn’t suit [the company]. I talked to people at FITCI and they were very helpful.

‘‘We could have stayed in Montgomery County, but [being in Frederick] will allow us to grow our business. We talked to quite a few incubators and looked at a few office parks and determined that FITCI would be best place for us.

‘‘For a startup company, [the incubator] is very important. An office park, you might spend a lot of money and not use all the space. That’s a waste.”

Imagilin’s products are manufactured in Georgia and Wisconsin.

‘‘We intend to bring in [and consolidate] the manufacturing facilities,” Lin said. ‘‘Hopefully within three years we’ll be able to identify more space [elsewhere] for us to grow [with the manufacturing in-house].

Lin said revenues are less than $100,000 per year.

Imagilin ‘‘could be in the black if we didn’t want to grow any more, but we want to continue to grow. We are in the red for the time being — hopefully not for very long.”

The market may be there for Imagilin’s products.

Neogen of Lansing, Mich., which was founded in 1982 and specializes in pharmaceuticals for animals as well as food safety and forensic drug testing products, reported revenues of $62.8 million for fiscal 2005. Its animal safety division, which produces vaccines, antibiotics and diagnostic equipment for animals, accounted for revenues of $34.6 million, according to the company’s annual report.

This year, Lin expects his company to work hard on marketing its existing products while developing new products.

‘‘We hope very soon that we will come up with another product for birds like parakeets,” Lin said.

‘‘This year will be very critical for us,” he said. ‘‘We expect to grow exponentially within a few years, because we have a very unique and well-positioned product.

Imagilin has distribution partnerships in Brazil, Japan and Taiwan. South America, and its relationship as an agricultural resource for the European Union, also is important to Imagilin sales, Lin said.

‘‘All these [South American] countries, especially Brazil, ship beef to other countries, particularly [European countries]. The [farmers] use antibiotics for the cattle,” Lin said. ‘‘That created problems with the European Union that says if you use antibiotics, they won’t use the product anymore. We found the probiotic can be a good alternative.”

The research performed by Lin was partly financed by a $20,000 grant from the Federal Laboratory Partnership Program through the Maryland Technology Development Corp., plus an additional $75,000 from Tedco through the Maryland Technology Transfer fund. Partnerships with the FDA and the University of Maryland through the Maryland Industrial Partnerships program also helped Lin’s research and product development.

‘‘The MIPs award timing couldn’t have been better” for Lin’s research, said Henry Ahn of Tedco. ‘‘We hope to hear a lot more good things in the future.”