Bio Innovation Conference | Entrepreneurship Track – It Takes an Ecosystem
Maryland Life Sciences Entrepreneurship Track - It Takes an Ecosystem. Missed the live conference? Watch and read more about the panel.
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Session A – Entrepreneurship Track

Session A – Entrepreneurship Track

Entrepreneurship Track – It Takes an Ecosystem


  • Rosemarie Truman, Founder and CEO, The Center for Advancing Innovation


  • Hansilla Alaigh, Director, External Development. Emergent BioSolutions
  • Angela Graham, President and CEO, Quality Biological, Inc.
  • John B. Mumm, Ph.D., President and CEO, Deka Biosciences

Emergent has established itself so well in recognizing and knowing what capabilities and competencies it has. And what else it needs in order to grow. And I think what Emergent has done well in the sense of starting off where they were in 98 and expanding to the portfolio. So, in terms of doing that, it’s like what John indicated, knowing what you have and where do you need to partner, what capabilities and competencies you need to bring in. So that awareness is extremely important and humility in that so Emergent has done that by understanding that we have this but we need this. And then at the same time to the point Angela made of being that trusted partner, and the fact that we’re in a wonderful environment and ecosystem with our government and non-government counterparts here.

I think that it’s incredibly important to grow at a pace that’s commensurate with your capacity to kind of leverage yourself right. So I think oftentimes especially with small companies, there’s a predisposition to have to go as fast as possible. And it’s not that it isn’t true, it’s just that whenever you’re making a choice, you can over-leverage yourself, you can overextend yourself, and as a small company, you need to grow in a way that’s constantly optimal.

And I think that’s an important part of building and continually, I would say vesting yourself into those relationships. Not only early on, and you may not need to reap rewards at the beginning but you’re establishing yourself as a partner to say we have these capabilities, you can come to us for X, Y and Z. And over time, then that may eventually lead to a program or project or collaboration, but I think the awareness of that we’re here and this is what we can do. And we’re willing to partner It’s the openness. Not everyone is always open to say hey I don’t have this or maybe we need to bring this element in and I think always having that helps build that trust in those relationships. And over time, you basically see the fruits of that labor, and especially with emerging right now in the COVID crisis. It took time building that trust with the government since 1998. And here we are today being part of that broad arching response to a global health pandemic, I mean that’s huge. Where it took time and trust to get to the point where we can be trusted to manufacture these vaccines with the capabilities and competencies we have so I agree with my colleagues.

I spent a number of years in Texas, I spent three years in California, various companies, and there is something profound about the waters here in Maryland. There is more of a focus. It sounds as if we are able to cultivate trust a little bit better than in other ecosystems. There’s a passion for discovery.

Maryland is cheap in comparison to Texas. This is a great place. There’s a lot of value here. There’s value in talent, there’s value in that. We’re in a very unique environment with our neighbors and our policymakers.

 The talent in Maryland is everywhere. But if you talk about regulatory talent, I can’t imagine that anywhere else is going to look like Maryland.

There is a diverse talent here, scientific expertise, regulatory expertise, manufacturing expertise, policy expertise. People are gravitating toward this area.

We have the proximity to all these all the resources that you would need in order to actually flourish.  

I think being aware of who your network is number one, and where the gaps are and how can you can fill those gaps. It’s also being able to articulate what your capabilities and competencies are outside in and inside out so being able to target what exactly are you looking for, that’s also very important. We could build relationships and that’s fantastic but what are your specific requirements, what exactly are you looking to form a relationship for?

There are a lot of resources here for whether your established company or startup. Whether it’s through the county or through the state there. And then we also have this great convener in the Maryland Tech Council. Whether you need our county resources or state resources or you just need an introduction to another company. So I think it’s about leveraging all the resources that we have here.

I think we also have the unique ability to conjure up unique collaborations because you have pharma, you have biotech, you have academic institutions. It’s also a nice opportunity for us to think outside the box. Maryland is very much an outside-thinking box state because we have these unique perspectives from all parts of the industry.  

I would just say that I always I always tell people, I think it would be very difficult for me to walk in anybody’s lab and not have something on their shelf, whether it has the Quality Biological name on it or someone else’s name on it, so you know again that’s what is unique about this area of a partnership. So we trust one another, we’ve learned to work together and understand when it’s important to say, you know what I’m going to leverage you to do this for me, that I trust you enough that we’re going to we’re going to put my label on it, so that I can then maybe because they have some capabilities that maybe are higher than ours that they can go move on to something else so you know those are to me some of the some examples I can’t give you more specific but it’s really because I haven’t had permission from people to be able to tell to tell you that I make something for them.

And again, because Emergent is very diverse in its portfolio, we can leverage innovation from other sides of the business, whether it’s vaccines to therapeutics to manufacturing and devices but you’re always thinking about different opportunities. The nice thing is Emergent is also very open to people coming to us and giving us maybe a pitch about that new innovation and capability. We’re good on feedback, we’ll provide feedback saying yes this is great but have you thought about this or maybe, this is super innovative.

And for external stakeholders and our partners, it’s very different. The government has innovation and where they want to see next- gen. You know DARPA is very different and what they understand their innovation to be. So, at the same time it’s, you have to also understand that innovation is at different phases and paces for different organizations, and I think being open minded to that and knowing how that innovation fits into your program or portfolio.