This fall we had the chance to catch up with Marco Chacón, who is Founder & CEO of Paragon Bioservices. We asked him about his company and his answers are included below. Look for more executive discussions in future issues.
Tell us about your company:
Paragon Bioservices is a contract development and manufacturing organization (CDMO) that provides research services, process development and contract manufacturing of biopharmaceuticals (including therapeutic proteins, monoclonal antibodies, vaccines and viruses).
Our clients include a "who’s who" in pharma and large biotechnology companies. We work with a number of smaller biotech companies, including virtual companies. For the latter, we become their outsource service partners—since they don't invest in their own laboratories.
Paragon was founded back in 1990 and originally manufactured serum and culture media products—mostly selling to the NIH, Johns Hopkins University and the University of Maryland. When the internet hit though, we became visible outside of Maryland, and even internationally. Soon our product base shifted and clients wanted services more than products. As more of the smaller biotechnology companies arose, we had a growing market. Within a few years, big pharma customers joined our client base.
In March 2009, we moved from the Johns Hopkins Bayview Campus to the University of Maryland BioPark. We moved with 35 employees today we have 137.
What is your strategy for growing the business?
We aim to always be relevant in the industry and we pride ourselves on "reading the tea leaves" – determining what healthcare companies need, and positioning our company to meet those challenges. We build the right skill set to match the programmatic outsourcing needs of our clients. At this point in time, it's more about adaptability and providing full program manufacturing.
Our differential is that we stay where the market is hot. Today, for example, our target clients include companies who are developing vaccines and immunotherapies.
What can you tell us about your fundraising efforts?
We have an active client base and commercial revenues. However, we started with a modest investment from one individual (who remains on our Board of Directors today).
We started paying the bills by selling products and services, and then services exclusively. For the first 18 years, we supported the company from revenues alone.
In October 2014, we announced a Series A financing from Camden Partners and New Spring Capital. We expect to grow revenues by approximately 20-25 percent in 2015.
What strategic relationships, particularly at UM Baltimore, have been helpful to your company?
We have a local venture capital fund invested in our company, so that speaks for itself. They want to support Paragon as a local Baltimore company.
I can't say enough about the vision of Wexford Science & Technology's (BioMed Realty) principals. They have been extremely successful with their biopark model (which has its roots in Baltimore). The wonderful concept of a BioPark, adjacent to a major research university, promotes development of technology and new enterprises with entrepreneurial flair.
We also have had great relationships with Johns Hopkins University and University of Maryland, Baltimore. The leadership here at UMB—President Jay Perman, Jim Hughes, Linda Cassard, Jane Shaab—have been a true asset to Paragon. These relationships and friendships have led to multiple collaborations.
For example, we've found ourselves collaborating with different labs on the UMB campus. This helped with our credibility and allowed us to attract federal government contracts in vaccine development (e.g., the recognition of UMB's vaccine expert, Dr. Mike Levine, was a huge feather in our cap).
For all of us, it truly is about working together and promoting Baltimore.