Two Maine biotech companies reached significant milestones recently, but in markedly different ways.

Fluid Imaging Technologies, a Scarborough company that develops specialized equipment to view particles in fluids, had been named Exporter of the Year by the Maine International Trade Center and by the U.S. Small Business Administration for New England in recent years.

Both organizations recognized the growing popularity of Fluid Imaging’s FlowCam, an instrument increasingly used by scientists and researchers around the world. Recently, Fluid Imaging notched a client in its 50th country, giving the company a footprint in seven continents. Among its clients are Nestle in Switzerland, GlaxoSmithKline of the United Kingdom, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the National Institute of Oceanography in India, and the Chongqing Institute of Environmental Science, which is managing China’s Three Gorges Dam.

One client, Lund University in Sweden, uses the FlowCam to measure freshwater and marine phytoplankton.

The FlowCam allows researchers to collect data on individual cells “in seconds, that would otherwise take far too much time to be practical on other types of instruments,” Swedish professor Karin Rengefors said in a news release from Fluid Imaging. It also allows scientists to measure cell shapes in a way that isn’t possible with microscopes, Rengefors said.

The other Maine company, Boothbay’s Biovation, had more sobering news. After seven years of trying to develop and market innovative anti-microbial fiber products, the startup has laid off employees and put its assets up for sale. The company had a $1 million contract to develop boot-drying inserts for the Department of Defense, but wasn’t able to get its timing right for entering the market. Regulatory approvals dragged while global markets shifted, affecting competitors’ prices. Also, a partner was affected by China’s fluctuating economy and had to withdraw from its work with Biovation.


CEO Kerem Durdag is philosophical about the experience, reflecting on the lessons that failure can teach entrepreneurs in Whit Richardson’s blog, Maine Startups Insider. Durdag accepts responsibility for not moving faster and not being more decisive, two things that could have altered the company’s fate. He said he thinks he understands where he went wrong and will apply those lessons to future ventures.

“With any risk comes the possibility of failure,” Durdag said in the interview. “It is my strongest belief that we as a state have to culturally get comfortable with the idea of risk if we are to be economically viable and have multiplier (effects) for our kids. And hence we have to see the value of failure. We just have to.”


In a nod to the complexities of commercial real estate, CBRE | The Boulos Co. has opened a help desk.

The desk goes beyond offering simple brokerage services to helping clients figure out how commercial space figures into their overall business plans. It’s especially geared toward startups and nonprofits, according to a news release from Boulos managing director Drew Sigfridson.

“We found many people need assistance (with) business planning, lease renewals and long-term strategic planning,” Sigfridson said in the release. In particular, clients often need help with decisions related to location, flexible lease terms and the cost of commercial real estate within the context of the company’s or nonprofit’s overall goals.

The help desk is located in Boulos offices on the fifth floor of Portland’s One Canal Plaza and open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday though Friday. Initial consultations are free.

CORRECTION: This story was updated at 11:08 a.m. on Tuesday, March 29 to clarify Fluid Imaging’s international expansion.


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