A Look into MassBio’s Future through the Lens of its New CEO

Oct 05, 2021

A Q&A with Joe Boncore, CEO, MassBio

After a seven-month search process led by a Board-level search committee with the help of an executive search firm, MassBio announced last month that it had selected Senator Joe Boncore to serve as its new Chief Executive Officer. In this role, Joe will work in partnership with Kendalle Burlin O’Connell, President and Chief Operating Officer, as part of the organization’s new leadership team.

To learn more about what’s ahead for MassBio and the Massachusetts life sciences industry, we sat down with newly appointed CEO, Joe Boncore.

You’re just about one month into this new role, how’s everything going?

With the current debate in D.C. over drug pricing reform, I’ve also had the opportunity to dive in head-first in our federal policy work. Over the last few weeks, I’ve met with the members of the Massachusetts delegation about the reconciliation bill and H.R. 3. and reiterated to them how public policy can impact the future success of our state’s cluster.    

But obviously, with it just being my first month on the job, I’ve been getting to know my new colleagues and continue to be awestruck as I get to know our member companies and the incredible work they’re doing to understand and treat the unmet medical needs of patients everywhere.     

MassBio’s membership grew to an incredible 1,400+ member companies in 2020 and member engagement with services and initiatives increased across the board. What are your biggest priorities to sustain this success?

MassBio is in a great position for continued success, and alongside Kendalle, we plan to take the organization to the next level. We’re working to enhance our existing services and offerings – the MassBioHub, MassBio Edge purchasing consortium, and Innovations Services programming – and expand into new areas as we strive to meet all our members’ evolving needs. 

More specifically, to help ensure our members have everything they need to succeed in the industry, we’re going to target the challenges that threaten the future growth of the life sciences. I previously served as the Chair of the Housing and Transportation Committees and through these roles I have a very keen understanding of the policies needed to drive change. One of my top goals as CEO is to make sure that MassBio is involved in cultivating and implementing these policies on Beacon Hill and in doing so, we can ensure Massachusetts remains the best place possible for innovation.

As MassBio’s Industry Snapshot points out, the biopharma industry in Massachusetts raised a record-breaking $5.8 billion in venture capital funding in 2020 and is on track for another unprecedented year having already raised $4.3 billion in Q1 2021. Can the industry sustain this growth?

The industry is booming, and it will only grow from here. This level of investment is critical to the small and emerging biotechs that make up the backbone of the life sciences cluster in Massachusetts. Most of these companies are pre-revenue, pre-clinical, and working on some of the world’s most complicated sciences and the money being funneled into the industry will allow these companies to thrive and develop the next breakthrough treatment.

The Industry Snapshot demonstrated that the industry is primed for exponential growth over the next decade. It’s projected that another 20 million square feet of lab and biomanufacturing space will be developed in the next five years, ultimately creating demand for nearly 40,000 net-new employees. However, there are forthcoming challenges that need to be addressed. The ability to recruit and retain talent is contingent on external factors, such as housing, transportation, and childcare. These areas will be at the top of my legislative agenda at the federal and state level, and I look forward to working with policymakers to develop lasting solutions.

How do you plan to build on the progress MassBio has made regarding diversity, equity, and inclusion after the organization issued its Open Letter 2.0 last Summer?

MassBio has been a leader in this area for quite some time – it was the first trade association out front on DEI and likely the first to hire a full-time director of DEI to help our members launch and scale their own programs. As CEO, I will make sure this progress never wavers. In fact, we just recently doubled the capacity of our DEI team to better serve our members and the team has hit the ground running, fielding countless calls, emails, and setting up one-on-one meetings with members of all sizes as they seek to fulfill the tenants of the CEO Pledge and make the industry more diverse, equitable, and inclusive.

I served as Senator representing majority-minority communities, and I’ve always taken seriously the commitment to give marginalized populations opportunities. I will continue to advocate for improved DEI across the life sciences in my role at MassBio because it’s not only the right thing to do but true to our mission it leads to improved patient outcomes.

As part of MassBio’s new leadership team, how will you and Kendalle work together to advance the organization?

I am thrilled to have joined this organization at such a pivotal moment in its trajectory and with such a strong member base. In my role, I will manage MassBio’s federal affairs and state government relations and take the lead on initiatives to sustain Massachusetts’ economic competitiveness focusing on issues around infrastructure, workforce, and digital health. Kendalle will continue to oversee membership, innovation services, the MassBioHub, and MassBio Edge, the organization’s leading purchasing consortium.

There is a lot of work to be done, but I’m excited to work with Kendalle as a leadership team to provide our members with the best-in-class service they’ve come to expect from MassBio and ensure Massachusetts remains the best place in the world for decades to come.

What are you most excited about in this role?

I’m looking forward to supporting the growth of an industry that has had such a profound impact on my family. My twin sons were born extremely prematurely and spent 4+ months in the NICU, and while they still have unmet medical needs, they are happy today and actually celebrating their second birthday tomorrow because of the breakthrough research and innovation conducted here. I saw how important the role of patient advocate is firsthand and the hope our industry can provide to families like mine. Now, I’m eager to be an advocate for patients worldwide who are in need of access to lifesaving treatments, procedures, and a little bit of hope.

To learn more about MassBio’s new leadership team and how they will lead MassBio and the broader life sciences industry into its next chapter, register to attend our Town Hall on October 20th.

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