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Meet Mark Woodford of Networked Robotics in Evanston

Today we’d like to introduce you to Mark Woodford.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
Networked Robotics Corporation was founded in 2004 by pharmaceutical industry laboratory automation scientists from G.D. Searle, Monsanto, and Pfizer.

The founders saw a need for network-based integration from the diverse instrumentation used in FDA regulated scientific research. The labors of many people including those with pharmaceutical experience and young engineers have contributed to the development of the company’s advanced proprietary electronics and software.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
It took us over a year to develop our network hardware. I remember when we got our first phone order we all just started laughing because it was so unexpected. Then it wasn’t quite ready to ship. When we finally did ship, they sent it back completely unopened.

There have been many challenges and only the support of many people have made it possible.

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Networked Robotics – what should we know?
Our Tempurity™ product collects real-time data through standard networks for quality and regulatory and sometimes research use.

We are the only company that monitors scientific instruments from multiple vendors by talking to them digitally in their own language. Instruments that we connect to include liquid nitrogen freezers, ultra cold freezers, incubators, refrigerators, shakers or any continuously running instrument. Some data sources don’t have the ability to talk to external devices, so in those cases we use our advanced digital sensors which measure, for example, temperature, humidity, voltage, pressure and many other parameters.

Networked Robotics’ customers include major biotech and research organizations, major hospitals and their research centers, laboratories, stem cell and cancer biorepositories, major food processing companies, restaurants, and warehouses.

Any shoutouts? Who else deserves credit in this story – who has played a meaningful role?
Networked Robotics was founded when Pfizer shut down their Skokie pharmaceutical research and development site, which was formerly a G.D. Searle research site that had developed some of the country’s most significant products like NutraSweet, the first birth control pill, and the arthritis drug Celebrex. Pfizer was kind enough to help those of us who were starting new businesses with access to equipment at a lower price and some equipment donations.

In the beginning we started at Northwestern University’s Technology Innovation center. I want to thank Tim Lavengood and John Allen there for helping us move from technology geeks to people that had to sell product for a living.

In the beginning it was very hard and several people worked for low wages and/or stock to get us going. There was the incredible technical skill of Konrad Kaczmarski, Chris Whittenburg, and Gershon Bialer – the regulatory support from John Vedo, Lucy Podbielski, and Don Wood. Jacki Casler paid for her own way to the Laboratory Automation conference in California. Dr. Barbara Woodford, Dr Barry Pitzele, and Dr. Bill Perkins served as board members. I also want to thank my late father, Charles Woodford, a former state treasurer of Illinois, for serving as a founding board member.

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Image Credit:
Inga Dolezal

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