Bioarray Therapeutics: CEO offers insights on sharing the company’s vision

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Christina Hernandez Sherwood, eMed Editor, MedCity News

The vision at Bioarray Therapeutics, a biotechnology company in Boston, is to improve cancer detection and treatment. By finding genes associated with cancer, the company is developing a diagnostic for breast cancer that can help doctors and patients choose the best treatment.

CEO Marcia Fournier, a molecular biologist, came to the United States from Brazil about 15 years ago. She founded Bioarray in 2009 with colleagues from the University of California, Berkeley, and Harvard University. Here’s what she’s learned so far:

Find and keep talent by sharing the vision – Don’t be shy about talking up your company’s mission. “I spend a lot of my time talking to people about what we’re doing,” Fournier said. “The more you talk about it, the more people will come to you.” That’s how to find talented partners -- from board members to investors -- who feel passionate about your core values and want to put skin in the game, she said. Instead of looking just anywhere for talent, Fournier said, have a strategy. “You want to look for places where there’s a pool of people with similar interest as yours,” she said. For Bioarray, international cancer research conferences are ideal for scouting new talent.

Seek partnerships to save cash – It can be tough for a small company with little income to grow, Fournier said, so developing partnerships is fundamental to success. When Bioarray needed to conduct a clinical trial, she said, the company partnered with another trial that had the same objective. Despite low cash flow, Fournier said, that partnership helped the company generate data in less than six months.

Listen to your customers – With the validation results from the clinical trial, Fournier said, Bioarray is positioned to release diagnostics as early as next year. At this point, adoption is a worry for the company, she said, including how to launch the product successfully and help patients. To prepare, Fournier and Bioarray executives are talking with prospective customers, such as oncologists, third-party payers, and regulators, before they plan the product launch. Fournier admitted it was initially nerve-wracking to put the idea up for scrutiny. “There was a fear that people would be too critical,” she said, “and you don’t want to hear bad things.” But both positive and negative feedback aided the company’s growth, she said.

Be willing to wear many hats – As a first-time entrepreneur, Fournier had no idea all the challenges she’d face. She learned quickly to be adaptable, taking on a variety of duties and working more than the traditional 9-to-5 schedule. And entrepreneurs are often forced out of their comfort zones, Fournier said. “Be open-minded for the things you didn’t expect,” she said, “and have fun learning in the process.”

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