5 Questions With Bryan Deuber, Biotech Business Development Expert and MPH Student
at Johns Hopkins
“5 Questions With…” is a weekly BioBuzz series where we reach out to interesting people to share a little about themselves, their work, and maybe something completely unrelated. This week we welcome Bryan Deuber, Biotech Business Development Expert and MPH Student at Johns Hopkins.
Since Bryan transitioned from the laboratory to business and corporate development at a global CDMO, he has been interested in improving healthcare for patients in and outside of the clinic by working with internal and external stakeholders involved in the next generation biotherapeutics. Over the years, he has gained insight from various sides of the table through his experience at Johns Hopkins, Morgan Stanley, and, more recently, through the sell-side M&A of Paragon Bioservices to Catalent for $1.2B in May 2019. As director of business development at a stealth biotechnology company, he recently interacted across disciplines, from scientists to CEOs. His experience researching opportunities, gathering intelligence, and organizing teams and data for potential deal execution has allowed him to further develop an extensive network within the BioHealth Capital region to improve healthcare and patient outcomes.
1) Please introduce yourself to our audience by looking back at your education, training, and career.
I graduated from Towson University with a B.S. in Biology and a concentration in Cellular and Molecular Biology. Like many new graduates, I didn’t quite know what I wanted to do with my degree at first, so I started working at Johns Hopkins doing research in a neurobiology laboratory. While I enjoyed my job, most people in the lab were 20-30 years my senior and had PhDs, MDs, or both, and I didn’t see myself pursuing that kind of career track long term. Also, I wanted to work more closely with developing therapeutics for patients rather than publishing research papers.
The next step of my career was working at Paragon Bioservices – a CRO based out of Baltimore that was acquired by Catalent Pharma Solutions in 2019. There I worked as an associate scientist and was involved in downstream viral purification. I got a lot more exposure to different companies and therapies, but I still wasn’t fully fulfilled by working at the bench and instead wanted to learn more about business strategy.
I next worked at Morgan Stanley as an associate, which helped me gain new expertise in business development. Paragon soon approached me for a new business development role, where I got my hands more involved in the project management side of things, including what eventually became Catalent’s acquisition of Paragon. During my time at Paragon/Catalent I learned a range of new skills, from understanding the market landscape to acquisitions.
This past summer, I joined on at Cugene as the Director of Business Development, working more in biotherapeutics. I immensely enjoyed the work but, after a few months, I realized that the company and role were not set up for a remote environment.
I’m currently looking for my next career move, particularly in business or corporate development roles where I can help bring up the local biotech ecosystems.
While I’ve worked, I’ve also pursued multiple advanced degrees at Johns Hopkins, including a Master’s degree in Biotechnology in 2017 and a Master of Business Administration in 2020. Currently, I’m pursuing a Master of Public Health at Johns Hopkins as well.
2) You’re currently working on your Master of Public Health at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health – why did you choose to pursue this new degree, and how are you hoping to apply these new learnings to your career?
I worked a fair bit in the rare disease therapeutics space while at Catalent, and it made me realize just how vital understanding things like patient advocacy is in this field. I quickly realized that I didn’t have the academic training to truly understand public health and the patient aspect of therapeutic development, and I really wanted to gain a better understanding of how we can use these potentially curative gene and cell therapy drugs to serve these populations when there’s not a big revenue model. There’s a huge unmet need here to treat orphan diseases, and I’d love to figure out better ways to marry the far-reach of large pharma companies with the nimbleness of small biotechs to deliver new hope for patients.
I anticipate finishing this degree in May 2024 – I’m taking my time so that I’m truly able to apply what I’m learning to the real-world examples that I get exposed to in the workplace. I took this approach with my MBA, and it really helped me connect the dots of what I was learning in the classroom to my everyday work.
3) How has Johns Hopkins prepared you for a career in biotech/biopharma, and do you have any advice for those who are looking to learn more about the in’s-and-out’s of biotech/biopharma?
One of the biggest things Johns Hopkins offers that helped me prepare for this career path is the plethora of resources that are available to students. Before I started my MBA, I had no idea of how to get access to biotech market information. Once I started, I learned how to utilize all these fantastic resources to get market research, financials, and info on publicly traded companies. Because I was working full-time as well, I really was able to learn how to apply those data points to my everyday work.
Furthermore, each one of the classes I took were extremely valuable, and once again I was able to take the lessons learned and apply them to my job. I can’t stress enough how valuable it was to have the flexibility to complete these degrees at my own pace while working.
4) What advice do you have for folks who have a science background and want to get into business development?
If you’re just starting out, now is a really good time to look at GMP entry-level positions at companies such as Catalent or Emergent – these types of positions will equip you with the base skills that everybody wants in biomanufacturing. Once you get your foot in the door, you can then map your career path more effectively. For those who are still in high school, I highly recommend looking into biotech associate degree programs in the area, such as those offered by Montgomery College and Frederick Community College, because you’ll gain specialized biotech skills without accruing a lot of debt.
For those who are just graduating with their B.S. from a 4-year university, you need to figure out how to get the skills that companies want – skills such as regulatory expertise, upstream or downstream manufacturing, etc. You could do like I did and start off working at a research institute, but there are other plays you can do as well. Be sure to check into biotechs that are headquartered in Maryland, such as REGENXBIO, to see what entry-level jobs are available to give you the skills you need to progress in your career.
Another key piece of advice is to network both inside and outside your organization as much as possible. It may feel awkward at first when you’re very early-stage, but soon your name starts to pop up more and more, and people begin to recognize who you are and potentially offer you opportunities. This is an especially big advantage for business development roles, as many of these jobs aren’t frequently posted to LinkedIn or other job boards.
5) You’ve lived in Maryland for quite some time – what has kept you around, and what do you think is most needed for Maryland to continue growing as a major life sciences hub?
Like many, I see huge growth potential for Baltimore and for Maryland as a whole. Not only do we have multiple world-renowned universities, but we have such close proximity to federal resources, with the NIH and FDA right in our backyard, as well as three large airports and a major railway system within a 65-mile radius. We can easily get up to New York City within 3.5 hours via Amtrak, or up to Boston and back same-day with a 1.5-hour flight each way. This is tremendous – we can have valuable in-person meetings and face-to-face conversations with multiple other biotech hubs, but also enjoy very affordable office space and a diverse talent pool comprised of entry-level talent, regulatory experts, and research innovators.
Once we get more resources, largely funding, I believe the flood gates are going to really open for biotech in Maryland and we’ll see the area start to surpass other market hotspots. Besides funding, another key thing that I think needs to happen is that we need to break down some of the silos between academic labs and industry. Many academic labs have traditionally had a bad taste in their mouths about biopharma development and not having the patients’ best interests in mind. While this mindset has changed dramatically in recent years, there are still misconceptions that need to be shaken to open the doors to more collaboration between academia, biotech, and industry. I firmly believe that Maryland can probably open those doors faster than other regions given the different industry sectors and academic institutions in this area.
Are you also looking for your next career move? Be sure to check out our Career Resources page for the latest insights into who is hiring and what you can do to land a dream job in biotech.
Be sure to check out BioBuzz’s previous interviews, and stay tuned for more conversations with others from across the BioHealth Capital Region, Philadelphia, and beyond!
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Sarah Ellinwood is BioBuzz’s Managing Editor. A scientist by training and a science communicator at heart, Sarah specializes in making complex concepts understandable, engaging, and exciting. She received her Ph.D. in molecular and cellular biology with a focus in infectious disease immunology from the University of Maryland and is passionate about all things related to scicomm, peer mentorship, and women in STEM.