5 Questions with Brian Hahn, Senior Vice President & CFO, GlycoMimetics

“5 Questions With…” is a weekly BioBuzz series where we reach out to interesting people in the BioHealth Capital Region to share a little about themselves, their work, and maybe something completely unrelated. This edition features 5 Questions Brian Hahn, Senior Vice President & CFO, GlycoMimetics.

Mr. Hahn has more than 15 years of senior financial and operations experience in emerging organizations. He joined GlycoMimetics in 2010. Previously, Mr. Hahn served as executive director of finance at Middlebrook Pharmaceuticals (formerly Advancis Pharmaceutical), a publicly-traded specialty pharmaceutical company.

Prior to Advancis, he was a senior accountant with Bering Truck Corporation. Mr. Hahn has worked with life science companies from early stages through product launch. He has been involved in multiple initial public offerings and has broad experience in developing strategic plans, creating business models, establishing accounting and auditing systems, and ensuring Sarbanes-Oxley compliance.

Currently, Mr. Hahn serves as co-chairman of the BIO Finance and Tax Committee, as a co-chairman of the Steering Committee of the Washington, DC chapter of the Association for Bio Financial Officers (ABFO), and also serves on the Securities and Exchange Commissions’ Advisory Committee on Small and Emerging Companies. He received a B.B.A. in Accounting from Shenandoah University and an M.B.A. from the University of Maryland.

1. What was your first job/role in biotech?

I have an accounting/auditing background with experience in several other industries including technology, banking, and manufacturing.  I was at two previous startup companies where I was responsible for setting up the accounting department and develop the accounting information systems. 

A former CFO of one of those startups pulled me into a startup biotech company in 2001 to establish the accounting group.  I was responsible for all accounting operations and the financial planning and analysis functions.  The financial planning and analysis function gave me the opportunity to learn the biotech world and understand the process of drug development.  We took the company public in 2003 and eventually launched a product in 2008.  It gave me the ability to see the entire life cycle of drug development.

2. What can you tell us about your current role and company?

GlycoMimetics is an oncology-focused biotechnology company. We are dedicated to improving the lives of patients by discovering, developing, and commercializing novel, small-molecule glycomimetic product candidates. We are also an emerging growth company that requires most of the employees to wear many hats.  As CFO, I currently oversee accounting/finance, information technology, investor relations, facility, and several administration functions for the company.

3. You were CFO when GlycoMimetics went public. What advice do you have for companies seeking to go that route during these unusual financial times?

We took GlycoMimetics public in early 2014 with most of the activities occurring in late 2013.  We were able to utilize key provisions of the JOBS act during this process, the most important being “test-the-waters” meetings.  Like many biotech companies, our science is complex and usually cannot be fully understood in only one short meeting on a two-week roadshow before the IPO. 

I would say the best advice I can offer would be to communicate early and often with potential investors.  Executives should take the time to make sure prospective inventors understand your science and your business. This will go a long way in securing the financing needed to develop your drug candidates.

4. What is unique about being a CFO for a Life Sciences company compared to other industries? What advice would you share with your CFO peers?

I have friends in various industries and the most challenging aspect of explaining the world of biotech is the amount of time and money it takes to get a drug to market that will produce revenue and return shareholder value. 

Unlike the tech industry that has much shorter product development and revenue timelines, biotech requires a much higher level of patience for someone to be a successful CFO. You have to fully understand the amount of time and effort needed for a successful outcome.

5. What is your outlook on vacationing/taking time away from office in times of COVID?

This new virtual work environment thrusted upon all of us has been a challenge for everyone as we try to now balance work and life.  Personally, I feel our company has been more productive than ever but as a manager, I need to ensure that my team is taking time to recharge and refresh.  It is critically important that people create boundaries and take the time they need away from the workplace. 

I have read articles where some companies are turning off their mail servers at night to ensure employees take the time to “unplug.”  I think GlycoMimetics has done a good job communicating to employees the need for taking time away.  The first few months we saw a major drop in vacation time; but as we adjusted our messages to staff, employees started taking the vacation time they needed.

Thank you to Brian Hahn participating in the ‘5 Questions with BioBuzz’ series and stay tuned for more interviews with others from across the BioHealth Capital Region and beyond.

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