Q&A: Dirk Lange, president and CEO of KBI Biopharma, talks about biotech growth in The Woodlands

KBI Biopharma, a JSR company, began operating at its site at 2635 Technology Forest Blvd., The Woodlands, in 2017 and has more than doubled in size to 60 employees in the last several years, President and CEO Dirk Lange said. The company has invested $10 million in capacity and equipment at the site and is looking to grow its staff in the next year. The company works with other biotechnology companies to get new medicines to the market, and Lange said The Woodlands area was an ideal site to attract both local and national talent.

What does KBI Biopharma do?

It is a contract development and manufacturing organization in biotechnology. What we do is partner with small and virtual organizations all the way to big pharma to help them realize their vision ... and ultimately [bring it] to the market. We bridge that gap between early discovery and actually treating patients with new medicines and drug modalities. Our clients come to us with oftentimes a certain idea, [such as,] ‘I believe that this molecule will help cure this disease,’ and ... they need the expertise and capacity to really develop that drug and bring it through those clinical stages all the way to approval.

What attracted the company to The Woodlands?

The Woodlands has everything. We don’t see patients there, but we receive patient material to the facility in The Woodlands. We then process those cells and send them back to the hospital for treatment. [It is] one of the hot spots in the industry; that helps with recruiting locally, and [it is] a great location to attract people from around the nation.

How has the COVID-19 pandemic changed the biopharmaceutical and biotechnology industries?

I would say that overall not even just over the last year, but in the last decade that life sciences in general and biotech specifically has drawn a lot of attention. There was a lot of investment pre-COVID[-19] that allowed groundbreaking new discoveries. ... With the spotlight COVID has put on life sciences as a general industry, ... that amount of visibility and the amount of excitement of having a positive impact on peoples’ lives that has drawn a lot of interest.

How does the work you do benefit patients?

I would describe ourselves as basically an abling organization that helps other innovative companies to bring new drugs to patients in need. In The Woodlands, what we do is work with cancer and autoimmune disease. ... We are enabling and supporting clinical trials in the field where we take patient cells, train them, modify them and engineer them to help the body fight those disease modalities.

By Vanessa Holt
A resident of the Houston area since 2011, Vanessa began working in community journalism in her home state of New Jersey in 1996. She joined Community Impact Newspaper in 2016 as a reporter for the Spring/Klein edition and became editor of that paper in March 2017 and editor of The Woodlands edition in January 2019.


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