2020 – Past BioBuzz Award Winners: Where are they now?

With nominations now open for BioBuzz’s 2023 Annual Awards, we’re taking a look back at the previous winners to see where they are now. Here’s a look at the group that started it all.

By Cat Thoreson & Kaden Hoffman | October 10, 2023 

BioBuzz has been building life science communities for 14 years because we believe in the power of personal networks to unlock your career potential. For our next chapter, we’re building upon the success of our community to help solve today’s greatest challenges in hiring and career development. There is a better, more equitable way to connect talent with opportunity… and we’re building it.

With the arrival of October, there is a palpable sense of excitement in the air. As we bid farewell to the warmth of summer and warmly embrace the cool of autumn, there is no shortage of things to celebrate.

Pumpkins grin from doorstep to doorstep, pumpkin spice lattes are on the menu (thank you Jacob Greenwood for this gem), and Christmas and Hanukkah decorations are now firmly affixed within stores (insanity reigns, we know).

But it’s not just the start of the fall and [unofficially] the holiday season that gives us reason to celebrate this October. For BioBuzz, it marks a more pivotal and sentimental moment for us; it’s the start of our annual reflection on the people, programs, and organizations within industry who made (and continue to make) impact on the year despite the challenges faced [we can all agree 2023 has been a doozy].

It’s the kickoff to our Annual Awards.

And this year, much like years past, we continue to elevate the experience and impact of both our Awards & Celebration. For the first time in history, BioBuzz will host multi-market awards in 2023 with our 4th Annual Awards & Celebration in the BioHealth Capital Region (Maryland, Washington, D.C., Virginia) and our Inaugural Awards & Celebration in Greater Philadelphia (PA, NJ, DE).

As 2023’s nominations roll in, we thought it important to take a look back at where it all began.

The Origin of Our Annual Awards

The year was 2020 and BioBuzz was still solely focused on the BioHealth Capital Region. The pandemic, as you’ll recall, was in full swing.

“2020 was challenging for everyone; people, programs, organizations,” stated Chris Frew, CEO of BioBuzz. “We saw an opportunity to bring together and uplift our community at a time when we needed it the most. Our Annual Awards were created out of the desire to celebrate success’ in industry, despite the trying times of the pandemic. ” 

With the goal to showcase just how strong and vibrant the BioHealth Capital Region ecosystem was, BioBuzz concepted seven awards that aligned with our mission, our goals, and the challenges of the time (COVID):

With the Awards themselves set, the structure of the Awards was next.

Reader’s Choice Awards 

Since BioBuzz was founded on the idea of building a more connected life science community, it was only fitting that our Awards reflected that. BioBuzz’s Annual Awards have and always will be Reader’s Choice Awards, showcasing our desire and continuous priority to listen to our community and rise above the silos that limit cohesiveness and collaboration.

Our Awards, and the asks of our community, were conceived as three unique phases:

Phase 1: Nominate

Your favorite has to be in it to win it! Our open text format allows the BioBuzz community to nominate one or multiple people, programs, or organizations in each of the Award categories.

Phase 2: Vote

At the conclusion of nominations, all submissions are tallied and the top nominees advance to the official ballot. From there, our BioBuzz community votes for their favorite.

Phase 3: Celebrate

It’s the most anticipated event of the year for BioBuzz. For 2020 this event was virtual, before moving to in-person in 2021 and with the added benefit of a Symposium in 2022. 2023‘s promises to be our biggest (and dare we say best) event yet with a VIP Reception and Celebration.

Without further adieu… a look at BioBuzz’s 2020 Award winners and where they are now.

2020 Award Winners

Community Impact Award: Judy Costello

We’ll start with Judy Costello, who won this award for her work at BioHealth Innovation Inc. (BHI). At BHI, she connected innovators and companies in the BioHealth Capital Region (BHCR) to essential capital, talent, and other resources to help grow and develop the life science industry. In April of 2021, Costello accepted the position of Special Projects Manager for the Montgomery County Government, where she has continued to “brand Montgomery County as the epicenter of BIO and innovation throughout this nation and world,” according to Marc Elrich, County Executive of Montgomery County. 

The John Holaday BioHealth Leadership Award: Marco Chacón

Marco Chacón, Ph.D. won this award for the leadership he showed in building up Paragon Bioservices, Inc. before its acquisition by Catalent for $1.2 billion in 2019, as well as his continuous support for the community through the Alicia and Yaya Foundation that supports science, children, and the less fortunate. 

Today, Chacón continues to serve as the Founder and President of IRAZÚ Bio-Holdings LLC, a company “dedicated to early-stage technology development and works to bridge academic research and drug development,”, as described by Dr. Chacón’s team, and the Chairman of the Board for The Discovery Labs and The Center for Breakthrough Medicines. Dr. Charcón is also the founding chair of The Board of Visitors of the University of Maryland, Baltimore Graduate School. 

He continues to support the life science industry in Maryland through the Alicia and Yaya Foundation, including a recent donation of $500,000 to the University of Maryland School of Medicine in May of 2023. Dr. Chacón is a firm believer in the BHCR as a life science hub, saying:

“I am thrilled that – despite market volatility and financial headwinds – the region continues to thrive as evidenced by our recently announced 3rd place National Life Science ranking, new company formation, and deployment of new infrastructure such as Wexford’s 4MLK building at the UMB BioPark in Baltimore.”

BioBuzz Media Award: BioTalk Podcast – BioHealth Innovation Inc.

The BioTalk Podcast, hosted by BioHealth Innovation Inc. President & CEO Rich Bendis and produced by Andy Eckert, was the first podcast to focus on the BHCR and today continues to bring attention to the people and companies involved in the biotech industry in the BHCR. The podcast recently released a massive episode with Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO) CEO Rachel King, which discusses the current state of the biotech industry, with an emphasis on the BHCR. 

Workforce Program Award: Translational Life Science Technology – UMBC / USG & MC

The Translational Life Science Technology (TLST) Program from UMBC, USG, & MC offers a unique degree to students, allowing for hands-on experience to create a more prepared life science workforce. Today, the TLST program continues to help students achieve degrees in life science disciplines from UMBC, helping to grow the talent pool in the biotech industry in Maryland. The TLST has continued to add new tracks to the program, including the addition of a bioinformatics degree, which is a highly in-demand field today. 

COVID-19 Impact & Life Science Employer of the Year Award: Emergent Biosolutions

In 2020, COVID-19 was the most prominent topic in the life science industry. Emergent Biosolutions was at the forefront of the response to the pandemic, developing and scaling different vaccine candidates. Since the release of COVID-19 vaccines, Emergent has transitioned back into the development of its own products, which has been immensely successful, resulting in the approval of an over-the-counter designation for NARCAN® Nasal Spray and FDA approval for their Anthrax vaccine CYFENDUS in 2023. They also acquired Tembexa®, the only approved smallpox treatment, in 2022.

Breakthrough Company of the Year Award: American Gene Technologies

At the time of winning this award, American Gene Technologies (AGT) had just become approved for Phase I Clinical Trials of their HIV gene therapy product AGT103-T. Since then, AGT has completed the Phase I trial. 

On August 9, 2023, AGT entered into a Business Combination Agreement with 10X III Capital Venture Acquisition Corp. III (10X III) Pursuant to the agreement, AGT intends to spin out its non-HIV business and merge the remaining business with 10X III. Following the merger, the surviving company will be renamed Addimmune™ and will focus on progressing AGT’s pioneering work on AGT103-T and other potential assets aimed at improving the lives of people living with HIV.  

The Phase I clinical trial focused on assessing the safety and feasibility of AGT103-T in people with HIV, who were previously well-controlled on antiretroviral therapy (ART). The study was a crucial early step in our drug development and showed that AGT103-T may positively impact HIV-specific immune responses, particularly CD4 T cell responses, in people living with HIV.   

The next phase of the clinical program will further evaluate the potential effects of AGT103-T on immune response in a larger patient population. The company anticipates initiating the next clinical trial phase in 2024 and looks forward to sharing more information as it becomes available.