2021: An Exciting Year Ahead for MassBio & the Life Sciences

Jan 13, 2021

A Q&A with Kendalle Burlin O’Connell, President & COO, MassBio

To get an inside look at what’s ahead for MassBio and the broader life sciences industry in Massachusetts and beyond, we sat down with MassBio President & COO, Kendalle Burlin O’Connell.

Following one of the most disruptive years we’ve ever seen, what’s next for MassBio?

2020 was tough. COVID-19 brought unimaginable tragedy, heartache, and loss. Yet, the life sciences industry is leading us out of this crisis faster than most expected. Our industry did well in 2020 and MassBio did well as a result. Our membership grew to a record breaking 1,400+ companies last year and engagement with our services and initiatives increased across the board.

We pride ourselves in our ability to stay nimble and evolve alongside our members. The move to virtual events and creation of a virtual community in 2020 was no easy feat, but we will use the lessons learned last year to further improve and revitalize the membership experience for the coming year and beyond.  Our core membership benefits are strong and continue to expand to meet our members’ needs.

  • The MassBio Edge: As our membership continues to grow, savings on critical products and services has grown alongside it. The Edge is bigger than ever before, saving members more than $175 million each year. Through the New England Edge initiative, we have started to offer those savings to members of state associations across New England. This year, we will continue to add new preferred partners and employee rewards to expand our portfolio of competitive discounts while also further building out our Edge Benefits program, an exclusive partnership with Harvard Pilgrim, to offer our members a higher level of health benefits and service at a lower cost. A review of our gold standard lab supply agreement will allow us to ensure that we remain current and continue to address the most pressing needs of our members.
  • Policy and Advocacy: As we embark on a new legislative session in Massachusetts and federally, we expect troubling drug pricing policy proposals in both settings. We’ll continue to engage with policymakers to educate them about the Massachusetts ecosystem, and the impact of bad policy on emerging biopharma companies, while working to sustain the legacy and impact of the Massachusetts life sciences cluster. The government remains our greatest partner, so as we ride the tailwinds of the life sciences improved reputation we will work with state and federal policymakers to demonstrate the value of the industry long after the pandemic has subsided.
  • Professional Development and Networking: We’re beginning 2021 with a robust calendar of events and I’m looking forward to each one. This year’s events will feature fresh and even better content. The team and I are working tirelessly to streamline all virtual events and make them more accessible and engaging to a broader audience. In fact, the bi-weekly Town Halls will shift to a monthly cadence and now feature MassBio board members who will bring a wealth of new perspectives on the state of the life sciences.   
  • Innovation Services: Some of the greatest minds in the world are working at Massachusetts’ early-stage startups and universities. Our Innovation Services team is developing new and innovative ways to tap into this ecosystem – such as our upcoming Partnering Week – to ensure that talent will directly benefit patients. We will also be offering a full calendar year of MassCONNECT programs as we continue to support early-stage innovation.

MassBio’s Partnering / Pharma Days® have long been a staple of the organization’s ability to connect major biopharma players with academic and early-stage targets. This month, MassBio will host its first-ever Partnering Week. What was the impetus behind this and why are you holding it now?

The JP Morgan Healthcare Conference is the largest conference for healthcare investment for our industry. But, for many small and emerging biotechs and academic institutions and labs, it can be challenging to break through the noise at that event. That’s why we created Partnering Week. The event will provide even the smallest of companies an opportunity to request one-on-one meetings with any number of our sponsors – BeiGene, Biogen, EMD Serono, and Johnson & Johnson Innovation – to discuss potential partnering opportunities. Together, we hope to help commercialize innovations to reach patients in need while supporting the innovation ecosystem that is the backbone of Massachusetts’ life sciences success.

If your company is interested in participating in Partnering Week, please fill out the application on the MassBio website.

What are you most looking forward to in 2021?

Right now, the life sciences has incredible momentum. We will continue to lead as the best place in the world for the life sciences and scientific innovation and offer our members the most value possible. Improving equity, diversity, and inclusion across the industry will also be a critical component of this year. We’re actively developing new resources and meeting one-on-one with members to ensure they have the necessary tools to implement lasting ED&I initiatives.  

We’re entering a new era for MassBio and I am excited to lead the charge as President and COO. I look forward to working alongside our Board Chair, Chuck Wilson, and the rest of the search committee to find the best person for CEO. There will be huge shoes to fill and we will miss having Bob Coughlin at the helm, but he is leaving with MassBio set up for utmost success in 2021 and beyond.

If you could describe your thoughts for 2021 in one word, what would it be?

Opportunity. This year will not be without its challenges. But if the last year of breakthroughs has taught us anything, it is that we are on the precipice of an incredible year for science and innovation. People across the country are currently being inoculated with a vaccine that took less than a year to develop – crushing the previous record of four years. The COVID-19 vaccine development timeline demonstrates what’s possible for the life sciences today and because of the industry’s strength we may see a return to in-person events after months of video calls. I look forward to working with the rest of the MassBio team and our 1,400+ members to harness the opportunity on the horizon and lead us through a year of great promise.

To learn more about what’s next for MassBio, how the organization will continue to offer great value to its members, and how the life sciences industry will adjust and change post-COVID-19, register to attend our Town Hall on January 19th.

If you or your organization would like an overview of ways to engage with MassBio and maximize your membership, please email Ben Bradford, Vice President of Membership and Economic Development.

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