Ania K. Knap, Ph.D
President and CSO, New England Pharma Associates
The Benefits of Being a Virtual Company
Ania is a life-sciences entrepreneur and consultant with more than 20 years experience in pharmaceutical research and early development. She is a Partner and co-founder of New England PharmAssociates, LLC, a research services provider and consultancy based in Beverly, MA.
In 2004, she co-founded MaxThera, Inc, a pharmaceutical research company developing novel antibacterial agents to treat life-threatening infections caused by antibiotic resistant pathogens. She served as President and Chief Scientific Officer of the company. MaxThera was formed through acquisition of the drug discovery portfolio Ania had developed as head of discovery research at Genome Therapeutics. The company was funded initially by the US BioShield Program and SBIR grants administered through the NIAID (NIH). MaxThera’s antibacterial assets were sold in 2010 to Biota Holdings Limited, a Melbourne Australia anti-infectives company.
Prior to starting MaxThera, Ania was Sr. Director of Discovery Research at Genome Therapeutics, a role she took on following a her role as Head of Enzymology at Kinetix, In Cambridge, MA, where her expertise in kinase enzymology played a key role in preparing the company for its acquisition by Amgen. Prior to joining Kinetix she was Director of Biology at RiboGene, an antiinfectives company in Hayward, CA and a Project Team Leader in inflammation and cardiovascular therapeutics at Novartis (formerly Ciba-Geigy).
Each large pharma and biotech company identifies with an internally derived culture that drives many aspects of decision making. The organizational chart, which is intended to provide clear delineation of roles and responsibilities, eventually becomes a definition of where the “power” resides within the organization. All too frequently large companies become a collection of “silos” where process begins to take over and the statement: “That is not how we do things here” becomes common, even within individual silos. This inflexibility can damage research productivity, especially when innovative solutions involving multiple departments are needed for success.
MaxThera, launched in 2005 to discover and develop novel antibacterial treatments for infections that had become resistant to existing treatments, took the approach to drug discovery and early development in another direction.
As a result of our focus on the final product and a practical need for aggressive cash efficiency, MaxThera successfully established a virtual company where most aspects of the drug discovery process were contracted out. Internal research activity was limited to critical areas where contractors with appropriate capabilities were not readily available.
The advantages of the virtual model practiced by MaxThera will be presented.