By: Maureen Newman, UVC Biomedical Engineering Community Connector
Returning from Buffalo with a well-deserved win at the 43North competition, Bill Rader, CEO of Raland Therapeutics, credits many of his accomplishments to creating solid and ever-growing networks. His company, a spin-off of Raland Compliance Partners (previously Raland Technologies), was started as a primarily research and development company and is currently putting CytoComm™ through the production stages.
Rader’s story started with Raland Technologies 17-18 years ago. It was a consulting company for pharmaceutical companies and provided everything from standard operating procedure (SOP) generation to equipment testing. Training groups were provided to help companies take early-stage products through to delivery to the patient. “There were a lot of employees doing a lot of things,” recalled Rader.
Then, in 2009 when Rader was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, he realized a problem with routine infusion therapies: they could be done much simpler and be made a lot easier. He decided to tinker with prototypes and discuss solutions with outside companies.
In 2011, when Rader experienced a flare-up of his multiple sclerosis, he spent time in Mayo Clinic to recover. While in the clinic, he was able to refocus his goals and began talking with clinicians. Once out of the clinic, he went to Johns Hopkins, and then the University of Rochester, always talking and looking for partnerships along the way.
Networking was key to Rader’s path from the Mayo Clinic to Johns Hopkins to the University of Rochester. At each location, Rader met individuals with whom he established open relationships. He shared his underlying goals and what he was trying to accomplish. “Once they understand that, they can then pass me to the next person,” said Rader.
Rader was eventually connected to the University of Rochester Technology Transfer Office (UR Ventures) at a networking event in the middle of 2011. The event was within a small networking group for CEOs and business leaders. Rader met a women who set him up with a man from the Technology Transfer Office. After meeting with him, Rader was introduced to Spencer Rosero, MD.
Dr. Rosero, a cardiologist at University of Rochester Medical Center, had a variety of patents, but of most interest to Rader were the ones involving implantable biological chips. The two decided to join forces and focus their attention on developing a new technology, now known as CytoComm™.
If everything continues as planned, Raland Therapeutics will be entirely within its own company in January 2015 and generate its first revenues by late 2016 or early 2017. Financial backing is the key factor in this timeline, not government regulations, as CytoComm™ Preclinical is used for laboratory research.
Yet clinical trials are certainly an element of Raland Therapeutics, as CytoComm™ is also under development for drug dosing in humans. Interestingly, although Rader is an electrical engineer and nuclear power engineer by training, he is extremely comfortable with the clinical trial process. “Key to clinical trials are SOPs, policies, operations, regulations, and things of that nature,” explained Rader. “Believe it or not, there is not a lot of difference between regulations of nuclear power and clinical trials. Literally, regarding the quality aspect of nuclear, take the process, change a few words, and you get the quality aspect of clinical.” Rader was able to apply all the training and experience he gained in nuclear power across the board without much effort.
Rader originally chose to become involved in the bioarena after becoming immersed in his work at Becton Dickinson–Medical Pharmaceuticals. He noticed how biopharma was not an economy driven area. Unlike other industry goods whose product lives are cyclical depending on the state of the economy, biopharma products are stable because “the only thing that stays the same is, people get sick,” stated Rader. “We decided to just focus and concentrate ourselves on the biopharma area, 17 to 18 years ago, and that’s what we’ve done.”
Today, Rader’s “we” involves a highly skilled management team and board of directors. “Right off the bat, I wanted to build a management board for Raland Therapeutics with a net worth of a billion dollar,” said Rader. “I recruited a board of directors with the same drive and passion I have to make a company with a high likelihood of being successful. I fell shy of the billion dollar mark, but I didn’t fall too short. They have connections and gave me some leverage to get me in the door of events.”
Of course, Rader met his team through networking. For Rader it is all about “networking, networking, networking, all the way to the recent victory at the 43North competition. The reason I was even there was through networking.” Rader was at a presentation in New York city when one of the participants asked if he had ever heard of 43North. Rader, thinking he was “too old,” thought the competition was looking more for “kids with new ideas.” On the contrary, the competition was interested in businesses such as Rader’s, and he applied with two weeks left to put everything together. A lot of the work was already compiled, and Rader pulled through with an application in the last few hours before submissions closed. After hearing back, he went to Buffalo for the competition and “got a whole lot of money.”
In addition to funding, Rader gained connections at the competition. “At 43North, I had already pegged ‘competitors.’ I talked with people, saying, ‘Hey, you have a cool technology I might be able to work with you on,’ and did not look at them as competition but as potential collaborators.” His research prior to the competition was facilitated by the Internet, a luxury not available back in the 70’s and 80’s, when networking wasn’t as prevalent. “Internet wasn’t really a thing. Bottom line was there was no easy way to start a business. As an 18 year old, I didn’t know what any of this meant, the different laws. I couldn’t afford a lawyer, didn’t know lawyers. I went to the library and dug, not really knowing what I was looking for, but dug.
“Young entrepreneurs have a huge leg up,” continued Rader. “If you have a great idea, you can pursue it. With the Internet and other great resources now, wow, to be 16 again. I would own the world.”