Editor’s Note: This story was reported from the 2014 BIO International Convention in San Diego.
By Jim Stafford
Copyright © 2014, The Oklahoma Publishing Company
SAN DIEGO — The 2014 Biotechnology Industry Organization convention is a whirlwind of potential success for Darren Head, president and CEO of Oklahoma City-based Cytovance Biologics Inc. Prospective customers are filling up his calendar and keeping the Cytovance exhibition space buzzing.
“We’ve had more leads in our first day than in all the previous BIO shows combined,” Head said Wednesday morning just after completing the first business meeting of the day at a conference area located in the Cytovance booth space.
Founded in 2003 by former executives of Novazyme Pharmaceuticals, Cytovance delivers a broad menu of specialized contract biological manufacturing services that help companies such as Oklahoma City’s Selexys Pharmaceuticals manufacture drugs for clinical trials.
The company has grown at a phenomenal pace since Head became its chief executive just over six years ago. It has grown from 30 employees to 135, many of them highly paid scientists.
Revenue is almost 20 times the $1.5 million generated in 2008. New, larger bioreactors have been installed in the company’s 44,000 square foot manufacturing facility at the University Research Park. Manufacturing capabilities have expanded, as well.
“We’re profitable, moving quickly to commercialization,” Head said. “We hope to have our first commercial product coming down the pipeline. We developed it for another company. It’s pretty exciting.”
Cytovance maintains its own exhibition space apart from the OKBio booth at the BIO show, largely because it wants to have a presence among its competitors in the contract manufacturing industry at the show.
“We still support the OKBio group, working behind the scenes,” Head said. “But what I’m seeing is that our booth is growing at such a fast pace that handling our own is a challenge. So, we’re less hands-on with OKBio, but still supporting it.”
On Wednesday, a half a dozen Cytovance employees staffed the exhibition space, which is twice as large as past BIO shows.
“I would say we’ve probably had over 40 meetings already,” Head said.
Another busy Oklahoma entrepreneur at the BIO meeting has been Craig Shimasaki, a serial entrepreneur and CEO of Moleculera Labs. The company provides neurological testing of children who suffer from tics, obsessive compulsive symptoms and out-of-control behaviors.
On Wednesday, Shimasaki held his second booksigning of the show at the BIO bookstore just off the main exhibition floor at the San Diego Convention Center. Buyers lined up to obtain the author’s signature for Shimasaki’s most recent book, “Biotechnology Entrepreneurship: Starting, Managing and Leading Biotech Companies.”
The book was written in cooperation with a number of other notable biotech industry leaders, including BIO president and CEO Jim Greenwood.
Shimasaki participated in the BIO Entrepreneurship Bootcamp last weekend before the opening of the show, which generated a high level of interest in the new book.
“The book is being used a lot of different areas for people who are working in the biotech industry, people who are supporting the biotech industry and in the teaching programs for future entrepreneurs,” he said.