The life-sciences world is a world of high costs and specialization that can prove too steep of a climb for many entrepreneurial scientists.

But an innovative new program is helping to level the playing field for young companies such as San Francisco-based Revel Pharmaceuticals, an alumnus of MBC BioLabs in San Carlos.

Revel has tapped the Agilent Instrument Subscriptions Program to gain access to a mass spectrometer, critical in the startup’s work to combat the damages of aging.

“The Agilent subscription program democratizes access to advanced analytical instruments,” said Dr. Aaron Cravens, co-founder and CEO of Revel. “Otherwise, such equipment may only be accessible to large companies or at great expense.”

In the case of a mass spectrometer, Cravens said, that’s half a million dollars or more to buy outright. Instead, Revel pays just a small monthly fee to rent the instrument from the Agilent program.

“We’re able to have this instrument in our lab and use it every day to drive our drug discovery pipeline,” Cravens said.

One big result of that: Revel has arrived at its newest therapeutic enzymes. The mass spectrometer allows Revel to identify individual molecules and zero in on key constituents relevant to disease. The company can then design enzymes to eliminate the elements that drive it.

“Over the past year, we have developed a new therapeutic candidate for rheumatoid arthritis,” Cravens said. “With rheumatoid arthritis, the body attacks itself in a vicious cycle of inflammation and damage. But we’ve discovered a way to remove the offending damage before the body begins to attack itself, in a way preemptively clearing out the bad parts before they cause problems.”

Along with rheumatoid arthritis, Revel is also targeting another key affliction of aging – the crosslinking and stiffening of tissues caused by damage to collagen. “With each type of damage from aging, our approach is the same – design enzymes to eliminate or reverse the disease-driving changes,” Cravens said.

Santa Clara-based Agilent Technologies Inc., a partner of MBC BioLabs, launched its first-ever instrument subscriptions program last year. The program is designed to meet the needs of dynamic companies seeking the latest technology with the flexibility and affordability that match their scientific and financial needs.

The program’s latest feature is an option that allows customers to have a fully bundled package of equipment, software, service, consulting or training, and consumables at an affordable, fixed payment with only a 12-month commitment.

This option goes month to month after the initial yearlong term and may be cancelled with 90 days’ notice.

“It also gives the flexibility of adding or changing equipment throughout the life of the contract,” said Padraig McDonnell, senior vice president of Agilent and president of its CrossLab Group. “This pay-for-use model is geared toward customers where fully supported, flexible and complete solutions deliver more value than long-term equipment ownership.”

The partnership between Agilent and MBC BioLabs just further opens up resources to startups. For instance, several Agilent instruments are available to MBC BioLabs’ resident companies, including the 4150 TapeStation for quality control of DNA and RNA samples and AriaMx Real-Time PCR for amplification, detection and data analysis.

“To date, it has been a tremendous collaboration with MBC BioLabs as we have similar goals,” McDonnell said. “Partnering with MBC BioLabs and providing services such as the Agilent Instrument Subscriptions Program enables startups to focus on the science and eliminates the burden associated with capital-expense ownership.”

Revel has flourished in this kind of a collaborative, symbiotic environment. “We are a young startup getting our feet wet,” Cravens said. “MBC BioLabs has been the perfect place to grow and take things to the next level, and there are many great people to collaborate with.”

For more information about Revel Pharmaceuticals, please visit

For more information about Agilent Technologies Inc., please visit

For more information about MBC BioLabs, please visit: