By Gail M. Seigel, Ph.D.
University at Buffalo
Have you developed a unique lab reagent that your colleagues might find useful, if only they knew about it? If so, I hope you are seriously considering the possibility of becoming a Kerafast provider. If you’re just testing the waters or are about to dive in, here are some helpful tips to get started:
Disclose your reagent
The first step before any commercial venture is to disclose your unique reagent to the technology transfer office at the institution where your unique reagent was developed. Keep in mind that this may or may not be your current institution. Expect to sign a standard disclosure agreement and a tax form for any royalties generated. The amount of paperwork is minimal, thanks to a blanket material transfer agreement that Kerafast sets up with your institution ahead of time.
Complete the Kerafast form
There is a one-page form for Kerafast called “Kerafast Reagent Information and Description”. This form is somewhat different depending on whether your reagent is a virus, protein, cell line, etc. You will be sent a reagent-specific form to complete as thoroughly and accurately as possible. This will help the Kerafast team create reagent and provider web pages, develop marketing information and ship or stock your reagent under the correct storage conditions.
Check out the website preview
Once Kerafast has created preliminary website landing pages for both you and your reagent, you will be asked to review them to make sure that all of the information is accurate before it goes live. If you have any reagent-related publications, images (of you or your reagent), or other important details for potential users, this is a good time to supply those for the web page. New publications can be added later, as they appear. All of this information is helpful for potential users as they browse the Kerafast website and consider purchasing your reagent.
Prepare your reagent
While the forms and formalities are being completed, you’ll want to prepare or scale up your reagent for distribution. In the case of cell lines, Kerafast has cell culture facilities onsite and can scale up your frozen stocks, if necessary. Kerafast will supply vials, pre-printed reagent labels and shipping materials that are appropriate for your reagent. Commercial vials of your reagent can be prepared alongside non-commercial vials of reagent that you can keep for yourself. Remember that even when you are a Kerafast provider, it is a non-exclusive arrangement and you are still free to share your reagent with others.
Distribute your Reagent
You have the choice of whether to ship Kerafast orders directly out of your lab or through the Kerafast site in Boston. There are pros and cons to each method, as outlined in (a) and (b):
a) Distribute the reagent yourself. When an order for your reagent is placed on the Kerafast website, you will receive an email with attachments for a pre-paid shipping label and any necessary customs documents. You pack a box (provided by Kerafast) with your reagent, a packing slip, as well as any dry ice (if needed) for shipping. If your reagent needs dry ice for transport, Kerafast will reimburse you for the cost. Note that shipping regulations are strict for dry ice shipments, so be sure that your dry ice packages will be accepted at the pick up/drop off location. Your royalty rate is higher if you take on the task of distribution yourself. You’ll need to decide whether the higher royalty rate is worth the extra time it takes for you to send out shipments from your own lab. If the answer is “no”, option (b) is outlined below.
b) Kerafast distributes the reagent. If you would rather have Kerafast distribute your reagent from their Boston location, make sure to prepare and ship an ample supply of your reagent to them. Just as with method (a) above, Kerafast will send you shipping materials and a pre-paid shipping label ahead of time. Once Kerafast receives your reagents, they will take over the distribution and you will only need to replenish the supply of your reagent when the stock is depleted. One benefit to this distribution method is that your reagent will be stored off-site at Kerafast as a back up to the reagents that you have in your own lab. Even if you choose the self-distribution method, it is helpful to have some reagent stored at Kerafast in the event that your lab is unable to ship an order in a timely way. This can happen in the event of severe weather, short-staffing issues, or even a missed dry ice delivery.
Hopefully, these tips will help you get started on your way to becoming a Kerafast provider. If your institution has an onsite Kerafast Fellow, s/he can help guide you through this process. With a few simple steps, you can become a provider, satisfied that your unique reagent will be distributed for the greater good, and enjoy the benefit of a quarterly royalty payment to sweeten the deal. If you have any other questions about becoming a provider, please feel free to contact Kerafast at firstname.lastname@example.org.