By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA
Jenn Adams comes by her involvement in the life science sector naturally.
“My dad worked for Baxter Travenol Laboratories, so we moved around a lot before ending up in a Chicago suburb,” she says. That’s where the company that eventually became Baxter International Inc. was headquartered. After graduating from Northwestern University with her MBA, Adams spent the next 13 years in sales and marketing at Baxter before joining a Baxter spinout and later several other companies in the life science sector.
“Baxter was a fantastic training ground,” she says, explaining, “I received a firsthand view of innovations in healthcare.”
Today, Adams lives in Nashville where she is Chief Executive Officer (CEO) for August Bioservices LLC, a company formed after an investment group acquired PMI BioPharma Solutions. Spun out of Berg LLC in January 2018, PMI BioPharma evolved from an internal research, development, and manufacturing arm of Berg into a facility offering a full range of research and development services to help clients meet the challenges associated with drug discovery and development.
When the transaction was announced (see news release here), it was noted that “the new funding and expanded leadership team position August Bioservices to deliver best-in-class and highly flexible capabilities that span the research and development continuum and scale with customers’ needs.”
Less than a year later, Adams says the company is pursuing some pretty aggressive plans including a major renovation of its existing facility near the Nashville International Airport that will allow expansion for its injectable filling platforms and a second building adjacent to the current one that will be a state-of-the-art testing and manufacturing facility. The expansion, announced in November, represents a nearly $65 million investment that is projected to create 180 new jobs over the next five years.
So, how did a Chicago-based executive get to Music City?
At the time of the acquisition, Adams was serving as an Executive-in-Residence at Oak HC/FT, a venture growth-equity fund investing in healthcare information and services (the “HC”) and financial services technology (the “FT”).
“Together with the team at Oak HC/FT, we did a deep dive into several sectors withing pharma services,” she explained. “We were looking for interesting investment opportunities where we thought an experienced management team and some capital would help to accelerate growth. We focused our research on the contract development and manufacturing (CDMO) space in response to the unmet market need for U.S.-based drug development and manufacturing capacity”
Adams said that the group was introduced to the team at PMI BioPharma Solutions through a mutual contact. “Although the company was not actively pursuing options to sell the business, together we began conversations, which ultimately led to a formal diligence process,” she said, adding, “We had a site visit to the Nashville facility scheduled for the second week of March 2020.”
Readers no doubt recall that most things came to a screeching halt that week due to the rapid spread of the COVID-19 virus, but Oak HC/FT’s due diligence with PMI BioPharma did not. “This is a facility centric business,” Adams explained, so the investor team and the PMI management team had to get creative. Their solution was a virtual tour of the existing facilities in Nashville and Celina.
“I did not step foot into the Nashville plant for the first time until shortly before we closed the deal July 1,” she said. That was the last week of June, to be precise.
As due diligence continued after the virtual tour, Adams says she also began recruiting a strong leadership team to supplement PMI BioPharma’s existing management. Adams recruited seasoned industry executives like Mats Bjoerkman as Chief Financial Officer; Joe Mase as Executive Vice President of Operations; and Mike Scribner as Vice President of Quality.
“The leadership team at August Bioservices has decades of experience in the development and manufacturing of sterile injectable medications,” she said, adding, “You have to have an experienced team of people to produce high quality sterile pharmaceutical products. An added bonus is that the team at August Bio knows one another and has worked together before.”
Adams said that she has received a “very warm welcome” since arriving in the Volunteer State and specifically called-out Abby Trotter, Executive Director of both Life Science Tennessee and the BioTN Foundation. “I met her in May of 2020, and she’s been a resource that has made a real difference for us.”
Like any technology company, August Bioservices places a great deal of emphasis on the quality of its workforce, particularly with plans to expand from 62 employees when the company was acquired to 240 by 2024. Adams says the Celina facility is staffed by many Tennessee Tech University graduates. Yet, at the same time, August Bio had filled many of the company’s newer positions with technical experts from out-of-state.
“Over the long-term, we want to recruit more in Tennessee,” Adams says. To do so, the company is starting a summer internship program for college undergraduates. Four of the six selected for the 2021 program are from Tennessee.