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Feb 04, 2021

Despite Pandemic Challenges, Life Sciences Industry Growing in Pa. and Beyond

Barb Carlin, managing director, mid-Atlantic region, for Danforth Advisors in Waltham, Mass., will be participating in PICPA’s Life Sciences and Pharmaceutical Conference on Feb. 9, 2020. To preview the panel discussion she will be joining, Carlin met with us to discuss the state of the life sciences industry in Pennsylvania and along the eastern seaboard.

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By: Bill Hayes, Pennsylvania CPA Journal Managing Editor


Podcast Transcript

The inaugural PICPA Life Sciences & Pharmaceutical Conference is coming up on February 9th, so there's truly no time like the present to talk to today's guest: Barb Carlin, managing director, mid-Atlantic region, for Danforth Advisors in Waltham, Mass., who will be participating in a panel discussion at the event. Today she'll be talking about the challenges for the life sciences industry throughout the pandemic, her outlook on the continued growth of the industry, and much more.

I wonder if we could start out, just to give some people some context, could you tell us a little bit about your background in the life sciences industry, and what it is you enjoy about it?

[Carlin] I actually started my career in Big Four accounting, Big Six back then. I started at Deloitte. After a few years in public accounting, I found myself being placed in a new role by a recruiter at a life sciences company. It wasn't long before I realized that this was an industry that I'd like to spend my career in.

20-some years later, I'm still here and have been really fortunate to spend time working in a handful of small emerging growth companies right in the Philadelphia area.

How has the life sciences industry fared throughout the challenges of the pandemic?

[Carlin] If you take us back a year, in March of 2020, I'm not sure if anyone knew what was coming. If anything, we probably were bracing ourselves for the worst – especially in life sciences – raising money, capital to move clinical programs forward. I think it was Passage Bio in Philadelphia, which was one of the companies that went public, and I think many thought maybe this was going to be the end for a while.

Quite the contrary. Things really started to pick up, record year for life science companies raising private and public capital. At this point, there's really no way to predict, but seems to be no end in sight. It's really exciting that great companies are doing great things for patients and there's investors backing those.

Do you think that the life sciences industry is going to continue to boom and take off across the states in the east? What do you think the forecast is there?

[Carlin] As we've heard from many people, no one really has a crystal ball, but we're hopeful that the investments continue coming, record amounts of capital being raised to promote and further develop programs, especially here in the state of Pennsylvania. In Philadelphia, gene and cell therapy is at the forefront of that landscape. It's just so great to see. Obviously Boston, where Danforth is, is based all the way down the eastern seaboard. Great companies being based in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, all the way down to Florida. It's great to see all of the vibrant activity. New companies coming out of universities, like Penn, Temple here in Philadelphia, even in Pittsburgh.

Pittsburgh is a thriving life sciences ecosystem, great companies coming out of that city as well. It's great to see all this for the state of Pennsylvania.

What are you seeing in particular in the state of Pennsylvania and its focus on this industry?

[Carlin] I think the hubs of the universities are really driving a lot of the innovation. Like I mentioned, Penn and Temple; in Pittsburgh, there's Pitt, there's Carnegie Mellon. Even right on the outskirts of Pennsylvania, Johns Hopkins in Baltimore. Lot of companies spinning out of the universities. Great technologies, great innovations.

You're also seeing a flurry of executives coming out of large pharmaceutical companies who are taking that first chance of being an entrepreneur and getting some really strong investors behind them to take these life-saving and life-altering therapies to patients. It's been great.

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Podcast transcripts are provided as a summary of the conversation and have been lightly edited for the written medium. The transcript is not a verbatim representation of the interview.
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