The trend of pharmaceutical outsourcing research and development has grown into a $49.5 billion market as of 2011, according to a report by Tufts University. That market includes contract service organizations like Benten BioServices. In an interview with Bernard Rudnick, a member of the company’s board and advisors to the biotechnology startup, he talked about the company’s recent series A round and the role it will play in the growth of its cell banking and biomanufacturing services.
Benten BioServices has raised at least $3.9 million this year. What milestones do you want to meet with that investment?
Some of the critical milestones were on the seed capital investment, which enabled the laboratory to operate under cGMP certification for biological safety testing and biomanufacturing services. The current investment is to scale sales and marketing, provide financial stability and complete key hires. Very few competitors have the depth of experience and scientific expertise coupled to the ability to support the pure scale of business, which the company has both the scientific and physical resources to support today.
The company was conceived and built to achieve market leadership in the next several years. It is a major accomplishment to build out a facility of this magnitude and also attract the best and brightest in the field. The management and team have deep industry respect, which has manifested itself in major pharma involvement and early sales.
Of the services the company offers, where are you seeing the most demand?
Clearly, biologics as a class of therapeutics has exhibited the highest growth.Testing for contamination is almost always outsourced, even by the largest biopharmaceutical companies. However, all the services are interrelated. For example, when a master cell bank is created, cell line characterization, safety testing and purification process optimization generally follow. Cell banking often is elected. Master cell line development and virus seed development are also growth areas. Benten’s focus has been limited to the high growth areas, and as biologics continue to be the high growth area, demand for these specific services has mushroomed.
Are you focusing on serving companies in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware or building a national customer base?
Benten is nationally and internationally focused. The company has sales and support in California and the Boston area as well as the mid-Atlantic and the team has done business globally. Future capital will be used in part for international expansion and targeted acquisitions.
How does Benten fit into the region’s contract service organization community? Are you filling any unmet needs?
Benten does no in vivo work and the facility is purposed built and staffed for those services which require significant experience and know-how. There have been issues in the industry stemming from cross contamination and poor responsiveness to customers. Benten’s offering is differentiated by its scientific depth in its niche markets, the remarkable facility [and procedures] which lend[s] to eliminating quality issues, and a stellar reputation for service and problem-solving that the core team has developed through the 17 years they have worked together.