Every month, MassBio spotlights a member company and the great work they’re doing to advance the life sciences industry and support the patients we serve. For May, we spoke with Joanne Smith-Farrell, Chief Executive Officer of Be Bio. Dr. Smith-Farrell is a mission-driven executive whose career has been devoted to leading teams conquering cancer and other life-limiting diseases. She currently serves as the Chief Executive Officer of Be Bio where she leads committed scientists, drug developers, business builders, and cell therapy operational specialists, united in one common mission – to fully unleash the power of engineered B cell medicines to change countless patient stories and provide previously impossible solutions across a wide range of diseases. Prior to joining Be Bio, Joanne held executive roles building businesses and developing medicines at innovative biopharma companies including bluebird bio, Merck, Pfizer, and Gene Logic.
Tell us about your organization, its mission, and current initiatives
Be Biopharma (Be Bio) is an innovative biotechnology company pioneering engineered B cell medicines, a new class of cellular medicines to treat a broad range of diseases.
Building on the research of Be Bio’s scientific co-founders at Seattle Children’s Research Institute, the company was founded on one simple, but powerful idea: what if we could engineer B cells to make any therapeutic protein we wanted – leveraging the biology of this extraordinary cell to produce therapeutic proteins at constant levels for years with a single infusion – redosably, allogeneically (off-the-shelf), and without toxic preconditioning?
Today, Be Bio is helping to make this vision a reality by building a broad portfolio across rare disease and oncology and moving our programs towards the clinic.
How does your organization’s activities help patients now and into the future?
When you walk into Be Bio’s office, the first thing you see is: Eyes Locked on the Patient.
Why? Because we believe harnessing B cells will lead to a fundamental and transformative breakthrough that will change countless patient stories. Over millions of years, nature perfected B cells to produce the proteins we need to defend against pathogens and rogue cells. At Be Bio, we are engineering B cells to turn this power against today’s most challenging diseases. Our goal is to create medicines that function as protein factories and engraft in a patient’s bone marrow to produce therapeutic proteins for years with a single dose. The versatility and durability of B cells is extraordinary – we have the opportunity to develop previously impossible therapeutics and establish a new standard of care for patients.
What do you see as the biggest challenge facing the life sciences industry today?
A common challenge facing companies in the cell and gene therapy space is navigating manufacturing complexity. Recognizing this, we decided early on to establish end-to-end manufacturing capabilities. Today, all non-GMP manufacturing, process development, and analytical development are done in our facilities. GMP manufacturing for our first products is handled through a strategic partnership we formed with Resilience, Inc. in 2022.
This partnership is deeply collaborative, and together we are driving innovation and reliability in cell therapy manufacturing to ultimately ensure this new class of B cell medicines is safely and efficiently created for patients.
What’s next for your organization / what are you focused on in the coming year?
Be Bio’s first development candidate is in rare disease, and we are focused on advancing this potentially transformative medicine to the clinic. Our proprietary cutting-edge platform allows us to rapidly engineer research candidates and we are fueling a multi-product pipeline of both autologous and allogeneic products.
Business development is also a focus. We have a strong, multi-candidate pipeline and our platform enables a versatile and efficient product engine across therapeutic areas. Potential partners recognize the impact we could make together, and we’re excited about the possibilities to develop medicines with some of the industry’s leading companies.
Most importantly, we are nearing the hundred-person mark, and continue to build a team and culture where intensity and humanity are held in intentional balance. We are collectively aware that our mission is only possible because of our committed and talented team of B cell believers who walk through walls to unlock the potential of B cell medicines.
For more information, visit: be.bio.
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