The Road to BIO was a 12-day speed-to-market campaign culminating at the BIO International Convention in San Diego. A team of seven That’s Nice employees made the trek, with Nigel Walker, the agency’s Founder & Managing Director, at the helm of a 2017 Lamborghini Aventador Roadster SV. Along the way, the team stopped to speak with CDMOs, CROs, engineering firms and other innovators breaking ground in pharma and biopharma.
From the start, the Road to BIO was about breakthroughs — breaking through the cost, risk and regulatory pressures on the road to pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical development. As an agency, That’s Nice has been there with clients through some of their biggest challenges and, equally, their greatest successes along the development pathway. In many ways, the Road to BIO was done in solidarity. As the journey unfolded, it became evident that this was about more than drug development — it was about people. Whether it was a wide-eyed young cowboy at a Texas cookout or the CEO of BIO at the BIO International Convention, one thing we learned is this: everyone has a story.
Megalopolis Starting the journey at the epicenter of both American history and biotechnology, we hit the Road to BIO in Cambridge, Massachusetts, arriving in Boston Commons Park at sunrise. Too early for a ride in one of Boston’s famous swan boats, the park’s 19th century suspension bridge was the backdrop to our campaign’s inaugural meeting with Unither Pharmaceuticals’ David Kudla. A European leader in single-unit dose technologies, Unither established its North American presence in 2013, settling as many European pioneers did in Rochester, New York, a city whose rich manufacturing history dates back to the 18th century.
Across the Fort Point Channel in Boston’s Seaport “Innovation” District, a number of innovators were hard at work advancing future bio breakthroughs. Among them was M+W Group’s Peter Cramer, working to bring projects to the forefront of the “new pharma” reality with nanotech, bio-nano, cell therapy, and industrial biotechnologies.
A wrong turn and broken windshield wiper later, the Road to BIO was bound for Connecticut, arriving in Norwalk to a challenge we were grateful to have faced early on — our vehicle’s inability to scale the ramp to the parking lot of Avara Pharmaceuticals’ global headquarters. Speaking with Avara’s Bill Pasek, a 25-year industry veteran, we were reminded of the importance of navigating these types of pitfalls across the development pathway to deliver on our commitments.
From New York to Pennsylvania, our trip down the Northeast corridor was the most bio-heavy of the journey — save, perhaps, for the BIO International Convention itself. As the sun rose over New York’s Tappan Zee Bridge, currently under rapid reconstruction to meet the safety and demand of its over 10,000 daily commuters, BioVectra’s Oliver Technow shed some light on why building bridges for customers in their development efforts is so important — and the reasons were not dissimilar from those necessitating the rebuild.
Safely over the bridge and through the verdant pasture land of New Jersey’s greater Princeton area, we were greeted by Envigo’s Joe Bedford with some sound advice on putting early development on the right road by meeting regulatory guidelines. Facing a minor run-in ourselves with the local regulatory agency shortly thereafter, we were grateful for Bedford’s timely advice at this early stage of our journey.
Bristol, Pennsylvania, the site of Abzena’s award-winning CRO facility, was one of two cities on the Road to BIO where Abzena is expanding its global footprint, the second being its new biologics manufacturing facility in San Diego. After a discussion on ADCs with Sven Lee, it was on to Plymouth Meeting, where Matthew Kennedy and the CRB team are empowering customers to make smart manufacturing investment decisions with FutureFacility™ concepts.
After circumnavigating the streets of Washington, DC, home to the Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO), we made our first pit stop in Sterling, Virginia, where the concept of safety and speed were not lost on Dave, our service technician at Lamborghini Sterling. Detecting micro-particles of metal in the vehicle’s fluids, Dave had us safely back on the Road to BIO in just over two hours, a job that under normal circumstances should have taken eight.
Fresh off our service in Virginia and well prepared from the circular traffic pattern of our nation’s capital, the Road to BIO quickly became the Race to BIO at the Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tennessee. Drawing the connection here was easy, we thought, as speed and precision are central to obtaining commercial success. But as UPM Pharmaceuticals’ James Gregory and Dr. Ed Scholtz reminded us, speed to market is not possible without a flexible, agile partner that can navigate the different directions a formulation development project can go while adhering to strict timelines.
Making our way from Tennessee to South Carolina on the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway, we realized that if there is one thing the Road to BIO has taught us, it’s that an endeavor of this scale would not be possible without a cohesive team powering our “molecule” toward the finish line. In this regard, drug development isn’t so different. As we learned from Alcami’s Natasha Howard in Charleston, part of the organization’s differentiating value lies in its ability to reduce timelines through the integration of teams and systems across the organization.
The stretch from Alabama to Texas on Interstate 20 had us yearning for the days of the jam-packed meeting calendar on our journey through the northeast. Though we managed to take in plenty of sights amid the shifting landscape from east to west — and consume plenty of barbeque in between — by the time we crossed the Texas border, we could not have been more excited to discover the breakthroughs underway in the Lone Star State.
While the city of Austin has emerged as Texas’ epicenter for biotech, we discovered plenty of innovation in progress outside of the state’s capital. Approximately 200 miles north in Irving, Dr. Donald Loveday described how Celanese is breaking barriers in bioavailability and compliance by combining innovative drug delivery technologies with EVA excipients. Down in College Station, G-CON Manufacturing’s Michael Katsis and Sidney Backstrom walked us through their manufacturing space, explaining how G-CON’s Cleanroom PODs® significantly reduce time and costs typically incurred during a construction project.
An organization usually involved in the earliest stages of the development journey was the penultimate stop on ours. Broadcasting from Icagen’s Tucson site, Dr. Kenneth Wertman shared what it means to be a truly integrated partner in early discovery, employing interdisciplinary teams that have long-term, collaborative experience to execute successful discovery campaigns that set the stage for success further down the road. We may have met Dr. Wertman later in the game than is typical for the early discovery partner, but his words of wisdom could not have been more appropriate as we headed toward our final state line.
Recognizing that the road to drug discovery is a long one, Steven Blakely of Bio-Rad, our final visit on the Road to BIO, explained how Bio-Rad takes innovative technologies and creates workflows that enable developers to accelerate the process, while employing a system-wide approach that facilitates collaboration among teams. As we pulled into our booth at the BIO International Convention, we couldn’t help but think this was a most fitting end to a journey fueled by technology, executed by strategy and driven home by a team unified in its aspiration to reach a successful conclusion.
Steve offers the life science industry insight and perspective from his more than 30 years of editorial, corporate and agency communications experience. Drawing from tenure as a lead communicator and media relations director for one of world’s largest technology and engineering companies, as well the editorial leadership of industry-leading B2B journals serving the energy, transportation and pharmaceutical sectors, including Pharmaceutical Manufacturing magazine, Steve delivers brand strategy, market-moving content and decision support. Steve holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Ohio University.