5 Questions With John Trainer, CFO, NexImmune, Inc.

“5 Questions With……” is a new 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. We’re excited to kick this series off with John Trainer.

John has over 20 years of experience in various financial, transactional, strategic and commercial roles in the biopharma industry.  His most recent roles before joining NexImmune were Vice President and Head of Partnering & Strategy for MedImmune, and Vice President, Corporate Development for AstraZeneca.  Mr. Trainer received his MBA from Harvard Business School, his AB from Harvard College, and lives with his family (and dog) in McLean.

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

First biotech role was at MedImmune, years before it was acquired by AstraZeneca and when the company was still located on West Watkins Mill Rd in Gaithersburg.  The office (back then we had offices) was so small you couldn’t put any chairs on the other side of the desk.  I was a manager on the marketing team for Synagis and got all the unglamorous work – the weekly sales volumes, the budget reconciliations…the best part was getting out in the field with our sales force to see how things actually worked.  It was a great learning experience and great environment for getting things done.

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

I’m currently the CFO at NexImmune.  We’re in the clinic with a technology from Johns Hopkins that is uniquely good at directing cell-mediated immunity, which is critical in cancer, autoimmune and infectious diseases.  Our lead trials are in acute myeloid leukemia (AML) and multiple myeloma and we’ll be seeing data readouts this year.  It’s an exciting time.  Our HQ is located on Gaither Road just off Shady Grove, opposite the laser tag / minigolf course place.  It’s a great neighborhood.

3. What do you think is the biggest gap in this industry, and how would you suggest closing it?

There’s a lot of debate about this, but here’s my take from a local perspective.  I think that around the BioHealth Capital Region, the issue is that we have a lot of world-class science coming out of federal labs and world-class universities, but not enough translational scientists to take these good ideas from research, work on them for a couple of years, and turn them into legitimate opportunities for significant investment.  We can say it’s because we don’t have local investors, but we do have a strong and increasingly active local investor network.  Those investors need to build the infrastructure for our early translational scientists to turn the science into therapeutics.  If we can do that, the BioHealth Capital Region is going to fly even higher.

4. What advice do you have for somebody looking to get into your field in this industry?

I have an unusual background and work history in terms of some of the cross-functional experiences I’ve been fortunate enough to garner, but so do many people in our industry.  The best advice I can give to someone is to find a way to get in the door and then just start working.  Find a part of the business you are good at (like the science, commercial, financial or legal parts of this work) to establish yourself and then reach out to work with people in other roles/disciplines as much as you can.  That’s how you learn and grow.

5. What is your favorite Music Group and/or Album of all time and why?

I mean, all-time what-would-I-want-on-a-desert-island? You probably have to go with the Beatles.  Oddly, my kids are into my REM collection at the moment and I don’t mind.  Lyle Lovett is also a favorite.  If I have to pick one favorite song, I’d go with “Scarlet Begonias” by the Grateful Dead.  I just like it.

Thanks to John for the participating in ‘5 Questions with BioBuzz’ and stay tuned for more interviews with others from across the BioHealth Capital Region.

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