6 People in the BioHealth Capital Region You Should Know In 2020

2019 was a year of change for many BioHealth Capital Region organizations. The past year has seen a host of notable leadership transitions that are sure to have an impact in the region.

The Maryland Department of Commerce said goodbye to Secretary Mike Gill and welcomed Secretary Kelly Schultz; the Office of Bio and Life Sciences saw turnover as well. TEDCO’s President John Wasilisin resigned early in the year and CEO George Davis left in June. David Peter departed from MCEDC.  Jarrod Borkat, who had spearheaded the BioHealth Capital Region strategy for more than five years departed in 2018, and even MedImmune itself, the proverbial anchor biotech for the region, disappeared this year after finally being absorbed by AstraZeneca. 

Change is inevitable and is often a creative force that generates an opportunity for new leaders to emerge and drive new levels of influence and innovation.

So, who are these emerging leaders in BHCR?

We’ve identified five new faces that we believe will play prominent roles that will influence and shape the future of the BHCR.

Eleanor K. Duff, PhD, Head of Oncology R&D Corporate Affairs, AstraZeneca

Twitter handle: @duffeleanor

Eleanor K. Duff is the Global Head of Oncology R&D Corporate Affairs at AstraZeneca. An experienced corporate affairs leader, Eleanor holds a PhD in molecular oncology from the University of Edinburgh and was an academic bench scientist before embarking on a 15-year career focused on communications, advocacy, and policy as tools for scientific change. Her unique skill set of communication skills and oncology expertise has seen her in multiple global and US Corporate Affairs leadership roles since she joined the pharma giant in 2016. 

Duff operates out of AZ’s Gaithersburg R&D hub, one of three global research centers for AstraZeneca. She and her team will be spearheading AZ’s BioHealth Capital Region ecosystem work that Jarrod Borkat initiated before leaving the company in 2018. You’ll be sure to see and hear from her and her colleagues throughout 2020 as they lead AstraZeneca’s contributions to shaping and sparking further growth of the BHCR.

Sally Allain, Head, JLABS @ Washington, DC, Johnson & Johnson Innovation – JLABS

Twitter handle: @SJAllain

In October 2019, Johnson & Johnson veteran executive Sally Allain was appointed Head of Johnson & Johnson Innovation’s new JLABS @ Washington, DC location to open at the new Children’s National Research and Innovation Campus set on the historic Walter Reed Army Medical Center campus in the nation’s capital. Allain had previously held strategic leadership positions within Johnson & Johnson and Janssen Pharmaceuticals, another Johnson & Johnson company. Allain is returning to her roots; she grew up just outside of Washington, D.C. and received her B.S. in biology and her Master of Science degree in microbiology and immunology from Virginia Tech. Allain is also an alumnae of the UC Berkeley, Haas School of Business, where she earned her M.B.A. Allain’s impressive career includes both large corporation executive positions and startup experience, making her uniquely positioned to lead JLABS into the future.  

JLABS @ Washington, DC is the first JLABS location to be opened in partnership with a global leader in pediatric research and medicine – Children’s National Hospital – and will be complemented with a key strategic collaboration with BARDA (Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority). The grand opening is slated for late 2020 and is an enormous addition to the BHCR support ecosystem. Allain will lead the incubator which will hold up to 50 companies within its 32,000 sq/ft facility. JLABS is part of Johnson & Johnson Innovation whose mission is to identify the best science around the world to advance important therapies and products for patients and consumers.

JLABS itself is a ‘no strings attached’ accelerator model for early-stage life sciences companies with an unquestionable track record that is now an important part of the BHCR.

JLABS @ Washington, DC is already active in the BHCR hosting events nearly every month, but as JLABS opens its doors later in 2020, Allain’s prominence and influence on the BHRC ecosystem will certainly be felt for years to come.

Ben Wu, President and CEO of the Montgomery County Economic Development Council (MCEDC)

Twitter handle: @think_moco

Ben Wu, President, and CEO of the MCEDC brings an impressive track record of leadership in federal and state commerce and economic development and the relationships that come with it. The fact that Montgomery County’s (MoCo) landed Wu to lead their public-private economic development organization is indicative of MoCo’s power in the state.

Prior to joining MCEDC, Wu was the Deputy Secretary and Chief Operating Officer of the Maryland Department of Commerce. According to the MCEDC press release announcing his hire, Wu is “An accomplished executive and internationally recognized technology policy expert, Wu brings to MCEDC a dynamic portfolio of over three decades of professional experience working directly with industry around the world and leading operations at the highest levels…He has a distinguished career focused on technology-led economic development, as well as a proven record of driving transformative initiatives and creating critical collaborative partnerships with industry, government, and academia throughout the country and in Maryland.”

Wu’s international status as a technology policy thought leader and his global network will be a tremendous asset in MoCo’s efforts to attract new business to MoCo. His technology policy thought leadership could also have a significant impact on driving economically advantageous legislation forward, including a push to ease current tech transfer regulations that are impeding technology transfer and commercialization out of NIH and other government research organizations. Wu is sure to play a visible and prominent role in shaping the future of the BHCR in 2020 and beyond.

Chris McDonald, Frederick Site Head and VP of Manufacturing at Kite Pharma, a Gilead Company

Twitter handle: @KitePharma

Chris McDonald, VP of Manufacturing at Kite Pharma and the new Site Head for the company’s new cell biomanufacturing facility in Frederick County, Maryland, is another new name and face you’ll be hearing a lot about in 2020.

McDonald is a biotech industry veteran that was tapped to lead Kite’s new 280,000 square foot cell manufacturing facility currently under construction. Prior to joining Kite, McDonald was the General Manager for the Fredrick, Maryland AstraZeneca Biologics manufacturing site. McDonald spent a significant portion of his career at Novartis, leading its global manufacturing strategy and the greenfield design, build, and start-up of a $600 million cell culture flu facility for both bulk productions and fill/finish production.

The new manufacturing site, which is located in Urbana, Maryland, is expected to open toward the end of this year. The new facility will allow Kite to significantly expand its ability to manufacture next-generation oncology treatments, including YESCARTAⓇ (one of the first autologous cell therapies ever approved) and other investigational therapies. Kite has already hired approximately 50 staff and is actively recruiting talent to fill about 160 positions by the close of 2020.

McDonald has been increasingly active across the BHCR ecosystem of late in an effort to introduce Kite to the region, identify resources and forge the right collaborations that will be needed to build a world-leading operation at the new site. Kite is a world leader in cell therapy and advanced biomanufacturing. Their commitment to growth in Maryland may one day soon make them one of the most important biotechs in the region; especially given the void left by the disappearance of MedImmune. McDonald will be a highly-visible, key regional player for years to come.

Linda Singh, Executive Director, and Interim-CEO at TEDCO

Twitter handle: @LindaLSingh

Retired Major General Linda Singh was just appointed as interim Executive Director/Chief Executive Officer (ED/CEO) for TEDCO as of January 2020. Singh joins TEDCO at a critical time for Maryland’s investment engine for start-up technology and life science companies.  A rocky 2019 brought sweeping leadership exits and a moratorium on investing for TEDCO. Singh takes charge just as TEDCO is allowed to begin accepting applications for investments again in its Rural Business Innovation Initiative (RBII Fund), Builder Fund (Builder Fund), Seed Funds (Seed Fund) and Maryland Venture Fund (MVF).

“Linda has a strong leadership track record in private industry and government,” shared Myra Norton, TEDCO Chair of the Board and President of Arena. “This, combined with her personal leadership style makes her uniquely qualified to lead TEDCO successfully during this transition period.”

Singh is a retired major general of the Maryland Army National Guard, appointed as the 29th adjutant general of Maryland effective January 21, 2015, responsible for the daily operations of the Maryland Military Department.  Singh also spent more than 20 years at Accenture and retired as Managing Director from the firm’s Health and Public Service North America operating unit. Her responsibilities included managing all operational activities for a budget that exceeded $3 billion dollars.

Singh will now lead the charge into 2020 and ensure that TEDCO provides the resources and connections that early-stage technology and life sciences companies need to thrive in Maryland.  With a broad knowledge base and a career built on leading complex organizations through great challenges, you can expect that Singh will make a quick impact on the region through TEDCO and many more investments similar to those recently funded through MII (click here), MSCRF (click here) and TEDCO/NIST (click here).

John Newby, CEO at Virginia Bio

Twitter handle: @vabio

John Newby was named CEO of Virginia Bio in 2019. Virginia Bio is the statewide non-profit trade association that serves and promotes the life sciences industry in Virginia. Approximately 300 companies, including biopharmaceutical and medical device/med-tech companies, are based in Virginia. These pharma and medical device/med tech organizations are located in Blacksburg/Roanoke, Charlottesville, Richmond, Hampton Roads, and Northern Virginia, generally within close proximity of research universities and medical institutions

Prior to joining the organization, Newby was the Commissioner of the Virginia Department of Veterans Services (VDVS), where he led the 850-member Agency located across 50 Virginia locations. Earlier in his career, he practiced corporate, intellectual property and Hatch-Waxman biopharmaceutical law at several prominent Washington D.C. region law firms and at a large, international company. He is a veteran, a graduate of the United States Air Force Academy and earned his JD from the University of Virginia School of Law.

2019 saw several notable successes in the Virginia Bio ecosystem, including the recent November announcement of Virginia Tech and Children’s National’s new research and innovation campus at Walter Reed.

With Amazon’s growing influence on Northern Virginia and a vibrant pool of established and emerging life science companies in the state, Newby will play an integral and prominent role in maximizing collaborative growth opportunities for his membership.  

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