BioFactura CEO Dr. Darryl Sampey Shares his Entrepreneurial Journey at Frederick’s StartupGrind Event
February 26, 2019
Dr. Darryl Sampey has been through the grind as CEO of Frederick’s BioFactura, a thriving biotech company that’s a key part of the BioHealth Capital Region’s second largest biotech hub. On a rainy, cold February night at FITCI, Sampey shared BioFactura’s compelling story during a “fireside chat” hosted by StartUp Grind’s Frederick chapter.
Sampey immediately connected with the audience by linking his days as a long-haired, budding rock star with the earliest days of BioFactura, which began as a side gig while he was working for Human Genome Sciences (HGS).
“Starting BioFactura was like starting a band. I was trying to find really talented players–in this case scientists and technicians–to make something valuable. I found three other really talented people with the right skills and values and we did our thing ‘underground’ and on our own time while at HGS. It took us two years. Developing the business plan was like our first demo tape. I put the same passion and drive I had for music into what became BioFactura,” Sampey shared with the audience.
BioFactura, which now has a strong focus on developing and manufacturing biosimilars, was incorporated in 2003, as his small team formally departed HGS. The group had some funding to launch BioFactura, but it quickly became “sink or swim”, according to Sampey.
To stay afloat, his team rented lab bench space from the University of Maryland to do one-off projects and short contracts while Sampey and his team continued to develop their local network. Their efforts eventually produced: BioFactura won a smallpox biodefense contract at Fort Detrick in Frederick, Maryland, with the help of a contact and a small business innovative research grant (SBIR). Securing this contract would prove to be pivotal, as the technology developed during this project would become StableFast™, BioFactura’s novel technology for developing and manufacturing biosimilars.
The company had a setback around 2013 with the loss of its largest government contract during the government’s budget sequestration. The company had to leave its Rockville, Maryland lab space. A company of four quickly and unexpectedly had become a one-man band.
“Biotech is a really, really long road to whatever you think your end game is. I think being a person that can get beat down and fail, go to sleep and wake up the next day saying I can figure this out is critical. Perseverance is the key–there’s no other way to succeed,” stated Sampey.
Sampey–and an unpaid intern that is a full time employee with BioFactura today–had to start over, bringing their technology from Montgomery County to Frederick’s incubator ecosystem in 2013.
“Early on a Rockville incubator really enabled us to grow rapidly and do what we needed to do. Later, FITCI and the Frederick support system were absolutely critical factors in keeping BioFactura afloat and giving us a launchpad to get to where we are now…Incubators are fantastic. We wouldn’t have been successful without the support of both incubators,” stated Sampey.
“Funding from Maryland state and local sources and organizations like TEDCO were also keys to our success,” he continued.
With support from FITCI and additional funding, Sampey was able to win new contracts and grants, eventually recovering from the government sequestration setback. In 2015, BioFactura graduated from FITCI and moved into its own 5,500 square foot facility that same year.
Today, BioFactura is 15 years old, employs 15 staff members and has three primary areas of focus: (1) The development and manufacture of biosimilars with its StableFast technology; (2) biodefense contracts, which include current and past work on Ebola and smallpox; and (3) performing contract R&D and manufacturing services for other companies and organizations.
BioFactura is uniquely positioned with its StableFast platform to tap into what’s expected to be a $22 billion biosimilars market. The company is also working to bring its own biosimilar product to a clinical trial in 2020 and has other projects in its pipeline.
“We are poised to bend the cost curve in health care by creating generic versions of very expensive biologics. We have a real opportunity to do well and do good…by increasing patient access to great medications. Our technology has a niche focus on biosimilars that are high value and notoriously difficult for others to make,” stated Dr. Jeffrey Hausfeld, Chairman of the Board, Chief Medical Officer and lead investor at BioFactura.
Sampey added, “There is no better way to develop and manufacture the biosimilars we target. We developed this system for biodefense even before biosimilars were on the radar. It has become the best, perfect fit for biosimilars that no one else has.”
“We have lots of plates spinning at the same time. We’ve learned not to put all our eggs in one basket. We’re very excited about what the next few years will bring and our organization’s future,” said Hausfeld.
This future, according to Hausfeld and Sampey, could include significant development and manufacturing contracts from private and government sources, new strategic investors, incremental expansion of its existing facility, or even building a new facility to expand its commercial manufacturing capabilities.
“We’re thinking about a lot of things right now,” stated Sampey. “We’re not sold on any one approach just yet. We’re keeping our options open.”
Jerry Bory, Director of StartUp Grind’s Frederick chapter, invited Dr. Sampey to keynote its second ever event because he believes his story of perseverance and success can inspire other Frederick entrepreneurs to keep going: “What StartUp Grind does so well is to let entrepreneurs know they are not alone…It provides an interactive educational process and a network of other companies who have gone through what they have and come out the other side. In my opinion there is no better way to learn than from another’s experience.”
Bory added, ””Darryl and Biofactura have a unique story to tell and it’s one other startups, entrepreneurs and mid-sized companies can learn from to work through challenges and become more successful versus staying at the status quo. Sure, he is an extremely intelligent guy but he hasn’t forgotten about his beginnings and what it took to get his company to where it is today.”
StartUp Grind is a national organization with 600 chapters globally. Frederick’s chapter, which is yet another tool Frederick provides as part of its growing entrepreneurial support system, launched in April 2018 and now has over 90 members.
“Choosing to build out our facility in Frederick was a great fit for our organization with its biomanufacturing-friendly environment and proximity to many of our partners like Fort Detrick. It’s an attractive place to live and work and the biotech talent pool is continuing to develop,” stated Sampey.
“There’s a reason big companies like Kite Pharma are coming to Frederick County. That’s a huge deal,” he added.
Over 100 diverse biotech and life sciences companies now call Frederick home and programs like FITCI, StartUp Grind, and Frederick Community College’s Bioprocessing Technology Program are indicative that the necessary support system is in place for future growth. BioFactura is yet another example of the breadth of life sciences and biotech companies operating and thriving in Frederick’s expanding biotech cluster.
Event Photos Courtesy of Emmons Marketing