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Five questions with Wayne Vaz

August 22, 2019

Wayne Vaz head shot

Wayne joined iSpecimen in June as Vice President of Growth and Corporate Development. He drives go-to-market strategies, key partnerships, and other initiatives that grow the iSpecimen Marketplace.

‘Growth’ is front and center in your job title, Wayne. How will the iSpecimen Marketplace’s growth help customers and specimen suppliers?

A commonly recognized challenge in advancing life science research involves gaining access to the right types of biospecimens relevant to the particular research being conducted and products and/or services organizations want to commercialize. In this era of personalized medicine, it has become increasingly important to source biological materials with more defined characteristics so that variable factors can be reduced during research and development efforts. This typically involves understanding clinical data associated with biospecimens, analytical test results, presence or absence of certain markers, and in the case of cell-based specimens, understanding cellularity and phenotype of the tissue/cells involved.

Recognizing this industry-wide problem, iSpecimen developed an innovative “Amazon-like” Marketplace specimen procurement platform comprised of an extensive and growing network of sample collection and storage sites (e.g., biobanks, clinical sites, research institutions, etc.) that are integrated via iSpecimen’s proprietary software platform. Marketplace dramatically increases the ease, speed, and efficiency of researchers’ access to the right specimens with annotated data in a regulatory compliant manner. Conversely, the Marketplace platform enables our qualified specimen supplier network to increase the flow of specimens from their sites into the hands of industry researchers who need them, while simultaneously generating revenue: a win-win scenario!

You have a biochemistry degree and a strong resume in business management. How do these interests complement each other?

I’m passionate about the “business of biotechnology.” In my opinion, to make the best positive impact as a commercial leader, it’s essential to apply technical knowledge of cell physiology (prokaryotic and eukaryotic) and metabolic byproducts, understand market applications of such biological materials across many segments (e.g., drug discovery & development, diagnostic, therapeutic) and combine this with solid business acumen so that we can innovate within these markets, unlocking the commercial value such cells and their byproducts have to offer, ultimately improving the quality of life. This means looking for opportunities to develop intellectual property, ‘productizing’ ideas to address evolving market needs, developing go-to-market strategies that require an estimate of required resources, and developing business cases to justify company investments. One way to quantify this is through a risk-adjusted net present value calculation – this is really challenging work! Sometimes we look for business partners to help mitigate risk and improve our chances of success.

Your background includes quite a bit of work with hematopoietic stem and immune cells. What types of research organizations need them and why? 

Viable biological cells are used pervasively throughout the life science industry for many different applications – for example, drug discovery and development, diagnostics development, production of therapeutic proteins, tissue engineering, cell therapy, and regenerative medicine. Cell types generally include both primary cells (clinically healthy and diseased) and genetically engineered cells. Research organizations use various cell types in preclinical development workflows to discover new drug targets, validate such targets, and develop cell-based assays to assess efficacy of drug candidates (e.g., predictive toxicology, etc.). These cells also serve as critical starting materials for developing autologous or allogeneic stem cell or immunotherapies, and may involve gene-editing a primary cell for cellular therapy and regenerative medicine purposes, for example, CAR-Tor CAR-NK therapy. Exciting stuff!

Are you looking at any new products, services, strategies or partnerships to grow iSpecimen?

iSpecimen is continuously adding new products that support biomedical research via our comprehensive and growing supply network. We cover this within three main business areas (1) Biofluids; (2) Solid Tissues; and (3) Hematopoietic Stem and Immune Cells. Partnerships with sites on the supply-chain side and with industry on the end-user side, are vital for our growth and the satisfaction of stakeholders participating in iSpecimen’s Marketplace. We are always interested in talking with organizations about new ways to partner that help us better leverage our proprietary platform for the benefit of researchers and specimen collection sites worldwide. I  have a central role in identifying and advancing such opportunities for the company, so for those of you reading this blog who desire to explore this area with iSpecimen, please feel free to reach out to me directly.

What do you do like to do outside of work?

I know it’s a cliché but I spend much of my time trying to stay up to date with the many technological advancements happening in the biotech industry. For example, there are so many exciting things happening within the cell and gene therapy and regenerative medicine areas, which will certainly be game-changers for the treatment of disease and economics of health care. Aside from that, I have a family with twin teenagers who keep me and my spouse rather busy. As the token Canadian at iSpecimen, I like to skate and play hockey. Finally, I enjoy percussion in my spare time, playing a Roland TD-6 electronic drum set that includes over 100 pre-programmed sound effects –  beaucoup d’amusement.

Learn about the iSpecimen Marketplace where you can browse millions of richly annotated, de-identified tissue and biofluid biospecimens, in addition to hematopoietic and immune cell products. You can join for free and creating a login is easy. Request a quote or custom collection today.