Tuesday, July 10, 2012

HemoShear rockets to front of commercialization

In taking a big product development risk, Charlottesville-based HemoShear has found a big reward, earning the trust of 10 major pharmaceutical, biotech and medical device companies.

The Charlottesville Business Innovation Council recently honored HemoShear with the Rocket Award, which recognizes the rapid commercialization of a product or technology.

Local firms Phthisis Diagnostics and WillowTree Apps also were nominated for the award.
Founded in 2008, HemoShear began commercial operations in 2009.

The company was recognized for creating a system that accurately replicates the biology of the body’s organs and disease processes, which in turn, enables better study of pharmaceutical and biotechnology advancements, according to the company’s website.

HemoShear employs 25 people and is currently working with about 10 major pharmaceutical, biotech and medical device companies. The concept is so new and dynamic that HemoShear is essentially the only firm so far that has been able to take that concept from an idea to commercial viability, according to Nikki Hastings, HemoShear’s vice president of laboratory operations. And they did it in about five years.

“I think they really have come a long way and they’re going to go much further. And I think they’re going to be a real hit out of the biotech arena in Charlottesville,” said Gary Henry, chairman of the CBIC board.

Tracey Danner, the CBIC’s interim director, agreed.

“HemoShear is an excellent example of an innovative startup firm with technology that has the potential to add significant value to the world’s human health care needs, while also contributing to the health of our region’s growing tech-based ecosystem,” Danner said by email.

Starting with a staff of five in 2008, Danner said HemoShear is expected to grow to nearly 40 employees by the end of this year and potentially double that in 2013.

In her capacity as vice president of laboratory operations, Hastings oversees project workflow and efficiency. Hastings credits HemoShear’s quick growth to the ability of the company to provide demonstrated support for what they’re doing, thereby gaining the confidence of major companies.

“We’ve been fortunate in being able to break into that network,” Hastings said. “Many people are surprised that there are 30 biotech companies right here in Charlottesville, and I’ve been really engaged in getting the word out about that and getting students excited about what’s going on locally as a future career.”

By: Nate Delesline III

Hastings' enthusiam for STEM is contagious

As a younger student, Nikki Hastings said she always enjoyed math and science but couldn’t quite connect the dots on how her love for those subjects might translate into a career.

That changed after attending a month-long summer camp that showed students hands-on what they could do with their skills.

“It just takes that one experience to get someone fired up to make them understand,” Hastings said. For today’s students and parents, “I would encourage parents to have their students experience a lot of different things.”

Hastings has led the development of programs to introduce local students to science, technology, engineering and math careers.

For her ongoing efforts, the Charlottesville Business Innovation Council recently honored her with the Community Award. The award recognizes a firm or individual who demonstrates a commitment to improving the quality of life in Central Virginia through community involvement.

Rimm-Kauffman Group and The Gaines Group also were nominated for the award.

Today, Hastings is vice president of laboratory operations at HemoShear, a local biotech firm that develops technology that’s been adopted by major pharmaceutical companies to help them improve the safety and effectiveness of medicines.

Hastings is also chairwoman of VABio’s Charlottesville Regional Council. She also has led efforts to develop local programs to expose students to career possibilities in science, math, engineering and technology. Hastings also serves on the advisory committee for the newly created health and medical sciences academy at Monticello High School, according to a biography provided by the CBIC.

“She’s one of those rare people who has both the energy and the enthusiasm and the devotion to actually make a difference in some kids,” said Gary Henry, chairman of the CBIC board. Henry said the role that people like Hastings play in attracting and retaining student interest in scientific and technical careers shouldn’t be underestimated.

“Nikki’s an inspiration to all of us,” Tracey Danner, the CBIC’s interim executive director, said by email. “Her passion and commitment to help grow and strengthen the base of technology opportunities in the Charlottesville area — for both today’s and tomorrow’s workforce — is making a real difference.”

“She’s in what I consider to be one of our most important societal endeavors,” Henry added. “Providing some feedback to [children] that says, a [science, technology, engineering or math] career is hugely positive and something that’s valuable ... to everyone.”

A native of upstate New York, Hastings came to Charlottesville in 2004 to pursue her doctorate at the University of Virginia.

When she’s not working or promoting the possibilities of science to students, Hastings has played a key role in supporting the local MS Society’s annual Bike MS event.

“I do tend to take on a lot, but when I see what I’ve done in the community it’s really energizing to me in other parts of my life at work,” Hastings said. “I’m always looking for something to be active in,” she said. “There are so many great things going on here.”


First of CBIC's award winners at forefront of new biotech thrust

For starting a local company that’s developed an international footprint and launching a project to redevelop a historic downtown building into a research center, Martin Chapman, founder and CEO of Indoor Biotechnologies, earned the People’s Choice Navigator Award from the Charlottesville Business Innovation Council.

Presented earlier this summer, the award honors significant leadership in the local entrepreneurial or high-tech community. Chapman, who founded the company in 1997, was one of seven firms or individuals to receive honors from the CBIC this year.

Tracey Danner, CBIC’s interim executive director, also was nominated for the award. However, unlike many of CBIC’s other recent honors, the award recipient was based on community-wide online voting. “It’s obviously ... very encouraging,” Chapman said of the recognition from his peers in the innovation sector and the community at-large.

“I think we actually have quite a vibrant community going on here and lots of meeting and social events being set up which tend to get people together and drive a sense of the biotech community development and companies.”

Chapman is a former professor of medicine and microbiology at the University of Virginia and a former member of the UVa Asthma & Allergic Diseases Center. He’s also served as a consultant to the National Institutes of Health, the Environmental Protection Agency and other biotech and environmental products companies.

Chapman said that Charlottesville’s broad spectrum attractiveness as a good place to live, work and learn makes his job of sharing the successes of the tech sector easier.

“Because of the quality of life, that’s why we see a lot of companies developing,” he added.
Last year, Chapman and the company announced plans to develop the former Coca-Cola bottling plant on Preston Avenue as a bioscience facility called the CityCampus Biotechnology Center.

“Certainly, as far as the CityCampus is concerned ... we’re anticipating if we can get companies moving into the project, [we’ll] have 60 to 70 people working there. It’s certainly one of the things that we’re focusing on and putting a lot of effort in.”

Chapman is also an expert in the fields of allergy and immunology, is chairman of the Virginia Bioscience Foundation and a member of the board of directors of the Virginia Biotechnology Association, according to a biography provided by the CBIC.

Gardy Bloemers served as co-chairwoman of the CBIC gala and has years of experience in the innovation and biotech fields. She said Chapman has always been an inspiration.

“He’s always been on my list of people to meet and ... I’ve been most impressed to learn about what he’s doing with CityCampus. [And] really, he’s got a global businesses that he’s running here from Charlottesville … In many ways, that’s a good thing for everyone,” Bloemers said.
Danner agreed.

“Martin’s leadership nature is gentle yet effective; he’s been a steady force behind the growth of our region’s burgeoning biotech sector. He’s an innovator, an entrepreneur, a friend to biotech and an extraordinary asset to our community,” she said by email.

By: Nate Delesline III