As a city of firsts, Philadelphia has a well-earned reputation for innovation. CSL Behring is looking to harness some of that energy by opening its first local lab in the city – a short drive from its global operational headquarters in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania.
The lab, located at the University City Science Center, brings together bright scientific minds from CSL Behring R&D sites around the globe as well as local scientists and students. Through this effort, CSL aims to maximize its ability to uncover disruptive scientific methods that could go a long way toward ensuring patients with rare or serious diseases have the medicines they need in the future.
The lab space opened recently with a select R&D team from CSL Behring’s leading-edge manufacturing site in Kankakee, Illinois. It’s led by David Boerema, Director, Breakthrough Launchpad, and Laura Keigher, Breakthrough Launchpad Manager.
The Kankakee team is joined by local scientists, including Drexel University student Sidney Daniel. While the initial plan called for adding international colleagues to the Philadelphia lab, pandemic travel restrictions have resulted in smart adaptations that include virtual collaborations with researchers at CSL Behring R&D sites across the globe.
“Opening the lab in Philadelphia, instead of at a current CSL Behring R&D site, enables these scientists to free themselves from the otherwise high priority, every-day tasks of the company,” said Bill Mezzanotte, Executive Vice President, Head of R&D and Chief Medical Officer.
“As patients demand and deserve better treatment options in the future, companies need to look to disrupt the way they currently run their business – in order to avoid being disrupted themselves,” Mezzanotte said. “For us, it’s important for the team to get away to evaluate and embrace new ways of improving operations, processes, innovations and medicines that have the potential to help patients lead full lives and the company grow in the future. Trying new things can be difficult when you are in your routine work environment and responding to the pressing needs of the current business.”
For the researchers on the ground, the lab also provides an opportunity to build strong relationships with global colleagues.
“We are aiming to bring together the diversity of ideas from our multiple R&D sites around the world,” Boerema said. “We also have a goal to extend the relationships that are built here in Philadelphia into relationships between the various R&D teams.”
“To have all of us here at one facility and working very closely is really going to strengthen our ability to collaborate with one another both today and in the future,” added Keigher. “We expect the collaboration will feed back into our global R&D operations and drive a spirit of innovation.”
That “spirit of innovation” flows through the Science Center and the University City as a whole. The neighborhood boasts two world-class research institutions in the University of Pennsylvania and Drexel University. The nearby Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia are counted among the nation’s top medical facilities. It’s no surprise then that the Science Center has long-served as an incubator for startups aiming to commercialize promising technology. Many of these startups have blossomed into integral businesses for the region and the world.
The Science Center’s reputation made it a natural fit for helping devise breakthrough solutions, said Douglas Lee, Senior Vice President of Plasma Product Development for CSL Behring.
“Our presence at the Science Center is a natural outgrowth of our broader strategy of creating an integrated global R&D organization that can conveniently collaborate with institutions everywhere so that we have access to leading external innovation,” Lee said.
Beyond establishing its own lab at the Science Center, CSL Behring is investing in local researchers through the ongoing CSL Behring-Science Center Research Acceleration Initiative. The program offers grant funding to academic researchers in an effort to transform ideas into groundbreaking therapies. Mezzanotte is also on the Science Center’s Board of Directors.
The collective efforts make the work atmosphere an engaging one, said Boerema.
“There’s a lot going on here and we’re able to feed off of some of that energy and some of the science going on around us to develop the innovation work we’re doing here at CSL Behring that may one day transform treatment options for patients,” he said.