Entrepreneur: Dr. Richard Cooper
POSITION: Executive vice president of research and development
WHAT THEY DO: Develop technology that produces protein-based drugs at a reduced cost
REVENUE: First significant sales of 2012 will be in the seven-figure range
NEXT GOAL: Partnering with Angel Biotech in Scotland to manufacture and distribute products in European markets
The "aha" moment
When Dr. Richard Cooper started TransGenRx in 2002, there was no shortage of skeptics. “How could a biotech startup company be located in Baton Rouge?” they asked. But the criticism only served to strengthen Cooper's resolve. Over the past several years, TransGenRx has been diligently working on an extremely versatile system able to produce several different classes of protein-based pharmaceuticals. “Unlike a lot of startup companies that have just one drug under their belt, we demonstrated we can make use of any of the single-protein drugs that are out there. Some we do better than others. We've made 20 different protein-based drugs, some that will be used as biosimilars.”
TransGenRx has maintained a competitive edge over other companies in the market in two main areas: speed and cost. For most of the protein-based drugs that currently are produced, clone-selection time is an extremely long process, sometimes taking up to 24 months to identify what might be commercially viable. For its part, the company recently entered into a seven-year agreement with Novocyt to produce growth factor proteins intended for use in new human biopharmaceuticals. “Our technology has allowed us to do this in under six months,” Cooper says. “When we were given the opportunity to work with Novocyt, we knew we had the technology and the team that could tackle it.” This system greatly reduces production costs compared to current market trends.
Hitting the market
Cooper believes TransGenRx's success is further validation of the strength of its technology, and he anticipates supplying Novocyt with material for clinical trials as early as the second quarter of this year. “Once we go into mass production, it's going to make the company profitable very quickly. We've got other things that we are working with Novocyt on that will even further impact the Baton Rouge community, both from a publicity standpoint and a business standpoint. And if we have high commercial sales this year, we will have done in four years what it takes most companies to do in seven to eight years.”
“It's been a very time-consuming process to try and get this company profitable. We're very close, and it's taken a lot of good people to get there, but it's been very enjoyable. Patience and being willing to stick it out and go the extra mile has paid off for us.”
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