European Business: Mr. Strancar, from your personal point of view, which- for example- strategic decisions brought the company to the successful position it has today?
Ales Strancar: The decision to target Gene Therapy was a key strategic element already in 1998 when BIA Separations was first established. Staying committed to it for the decade while the field struggled with patient safety issues was even more important. As a result of our commitment, we were perfectly positioned to grow with the industry as the first generation problems were worked out. Our business is now growing exponentially in parallel with the global boom in this sector.
European Business: ‘War for Talents’ or ‘Company Branding’ are expressions one keeps hearing regularly. Are you also experiencing the lack of skilled personnel yourself and if yes, which measures are you taking against it?
Ales Strancar: That has not been a problem for us. We have many young talented personnel and some older very experienced colleagues who are also great teachers and mentors. Our unique technology has always required that we have strong internal training programs. Besides that, our staff has continuous opportunity to participate in the most important health care trends of the generation. Those elements together contribute to strong employee loyalty.
European Business: What are the features you would name as special success factors in your products and services?
Ales Strancar: 1.The unique capabilities of our proprietary monolithic columns are a major factor. They simply do things that other purification media cannot. In brief: better purification, faster. They have already revolutionized purification of DNA plasmids and viruses for vaccines and gene therapy vectors. Exosomes, antibiotic replacement with bacteriophages, and nanoparticle purification are following the same trend.
2. Another major factor is that we have the skills and experience to help our customers solve their purification and analytical challenges quickly and effectively. We have run more than 500 process development projects over the past 20 years with some of the most difficult products in the industry. That means we have already solved many of the demanding challenges our customers will face and we have a uniquely strong foundation of hands-on experience to accelerate solution to new challenges as they arise. Just to give you an idea, our experience includes AAV (all serotypes), Flu virus (all serotypes), Adeno virus, Vaccinia/MVA, exosomes, pDNA, mRNA, IgMs, PEG-proteins, liposome, ribosomes, bacteriophages, oncolytic and traditional vaccines.
3. A strong tradition of innovation is another key element. We are where we are today because we anticipated the evolving needs of the industry for better chromatography media. We continue to do that but we also anticipate the emerging importance of linked phenomena that affect purification. For example, we are the only major chromatography supplier at present with a deep understanding of how host cell contaminants interact among themselves and with products, and how they impair traditional purification approaches.
European Business: Who are your typical customers and which challenges / topics in the market are they facing these days?
Ales Strancar: Most of our customers are small and mid-size companies working in emerging sectors of international Biopharma. They include Gene Therapy companies, Exosome Therapy companies, Phage Therapy for antibiotic replacement, traditional and oncolytic vaccines, and the Contract Manufacturing Organizations that serve them. One of their most serious challenges is the fact that new modes of therapy create new technical problems that cannot be solved with the tools from older product sectors. That’s where technology providers like BIA come in. We provide new-generation tools to solve the unique problems presented by these emerging product sectors, and we provide the skills to use them.
European Business: Please complete the following sentence: If I could make a wish, for example to a politician….
Ales Strancar: It might be that our ability as a society to respond to the health opportunities and challenges we are currently facing depends on our ability to make emerging cures available to the public as rapidly and effectively as possible. Anything that politicians can do to facilitate this evolution will be welcome.