By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski
BioLab Sciences CEO Bob Maguire doesn’t take no for an answer. It worked when he created Airpark-based BioLab Sciences and subsequently redirected his sales staff to distribute COVID-19 antibody tests.
“Many companies go into the biotech business—or whatever it is—and it takes them years to generate their first penny or dollar,” he says. “Our benefit is we have a sales group and sales mentality. While we have scientists and researchers working on the biotech side, we have the best of sales, too. We built this distribution channel that is amazing.”
Maguire says the goal is to give providers what they need to detect the presence of COVID-19 antibodies.
“These tests will help equip physicians and health care leaders with the data they need to make informed public-health decisions and help guide the community as we navigate our future with this virus,” Maguire says.
The test devices complete the screening using a blood sample from a finger prick and produce results in 10 minutes.
“The rapid antibody test detects the presence of IgG and IgM antibodies from COVID-19 generally available in whole blood, serum or plasma after an infection,” says Dr. Carlos Encinas, chief science officer of BioLab Sciences. “With health care agencies and providers experiencing shortages and testing delays for molecular tests, these rapid antibody tests are a mission-critical need for the community to determine who has been infected by the novel coronavirus.”
The test, which is already being used throughout Europe and Asia, is pending review by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. However, as of March 16, the agency issued guidance to allow rapid antibody tests under emergency-use authorization.
“To flatten the curve and mitigate infections in the future, it is critical to identify those who test positive for coronavirus exposure so they can take the right steps to quarantine and seek appropriate care from their physician,” says Jaime Leija, BioLab Sciences’ chief commercialization officer.
BioLab’s biggest problem is supply and demand.
“We’re doing everything we can to be able to provide the tests and we’re having a lot of success,” he adds. “We want to get people back to work and get the country back on track, and so people need to be able to take these tests.”
Maguire recalls Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, says the pandemic may last two years or more.
“I mean, that’s devastating when you think of all the businesses that are closed, the 30 million people who we know are out of work,” Maguire explains. “There are others who can’t file or collect. The benefit of testing is to identify who has had the virus, because they can get back to work. They’re not contagious. They’re not going to get anyone sick or kill anyone. There are people who are asymptomatic who feel fine but have it, then they could be spreading it to someone who has a compromised immune system.”
To find success, BioLab followed the distribution channel it uses for its flagship product, MyOwn Skin, which eliminates the need to surgically remove, or harvest, large areas of healthy skin from other parts of a patient’s body to produce skin grafts.
“We were able to basically plug it in right away and get it going,” he says. “It worked out perfectly.”
Maguire says he will have to increase his staff to meet the demand for the tests.
“Now that they’re opening up elective surgeries, we believe there’s going to be a rush on onslaught for MyOwn Skin,” he says. “Unfortunately, people who have suffered chronic wounds, with the time they couldn’t get treatment, unfortunately their wounds are going to be worse.
“We’re prepared with the staffing to be able to provide a product for those people. We do provide help with reimbursement and preauthorization and we’re getting tons of requests.”
The idea for MyOwn Skin started six years ago when Maguire was in a rollover car crash from which he walked away. After surviving that, he realized he wanted to do more to help people and leave a lasting impact.
“The rollover crash was horrific,” he adds. “I didn’t have a scratch on me. I was getting ready to start a new position and I was thinking, ‘I shouldn’t be here. I shouldn’t be alive. Am I really doing anything to help people? Am I making a difference?’ It was definitely a defining moment.”
After identifying how many individuals suffer from chronic health, pain and wound issues, he was determined to find a solution and he left his career as a software executive.
After years of research into advanced wound treatment, BioLab Sciences introduced MyOwn Skin, which changed the way skin grafts are performed. MyOwn Skin uses a 1-by-1-cm sample of the patient’s skin to accelerate wound healing by developing grafts in a lab. This avoids surgery to borrow from other parts of the body.
“We’re getting into burn centers,” he says. “About 235 facilities—hospitals and surgery centers—are very excited about it. The human body has an amazing capability to heal itself. Sometimes it needs the right cell from the right location.”
Maguire adds that it’s helpful for ill children as well.
“If the child has burns or other indications or you’re dealing with an elderly patient, their skin may be thin,” he says. “They’re not good candidates to harvest skin from. But with MyOwn Skin, they’re taking a sample the size of a pencil eraser and vials of blood, and in seven days we can create up to three 4-inch-by-4-inch patches of skin with extra blood.”
Maguire isn’t a doctor or Ph.D., nor does he claim to be one. He just hires the right people.
“I have people trained to do this or do that,” he says. “If someone says no, I go around them or go to the next person until they say yes. I was originally in sales in New York City. If you can make it there, you can make it anywhere.”
Info: biolabsciences.net ν