We are deeply saddened to announce that Fairbanks CEO Alan Schneyer passed away suddenly on November 18, 2020. Alan was an innovative scientist, a caring mentor, an eager colloborator, and a truly bold entrepreneur.
As Dr. Joe Jerry, Science Director of the Pioneer Valley Life Science Institute, friend and colleague of Alan, wrote “He could see the potential for a completely new strategy to manage diabetes. This was to devise therapeutics to restore the function of the pancreatic beta cells rather than simply provide insulin by daily injections to patients. A grand idea, but he was unwilling to be satisfied with simply an idea and he committed himself to the task of building this new therapy.” (Read Dr Jerry’s tribute.)
Fairbanks was selected this year to participate at the NIH Innovation Conference (NIC) and Life Sciences Summit (LSS). These are exciting opportunities to pitch to mentors, investors and possible interested partners.
At the October 13 NIC, Fairbanks CEO Alan Schneyer presented the company via the video linked below, and industry mentors provided evaluations and feedback. The mentors expressed interest and provided some very positive comments like “The idea of converting alpha cells to beta cells is compelling!”
Next up is the Life Sciences Summit, November 17-18, sponsored by the Center for Biotechnology. At this event, Fairbanks will present as part of the Emerging Company Showcase. Event organizers say “Each company featured in the Emerging Company Showcase was nominated, reviewed and invited to present based upon their innovative science and the quality of their management team.”
This will be a valuable opportunity to connect with potential partners and collaborators, and the company is excited to be part of it.
The studies that would have been presented include a determination of how the therapy works on its target FSTL3 as well as a demonstration that the therapy can restore insulin secretion to diabetic beta cells. Animal studies are underway that hopefully will lead to human trials in the not too distant future.
When Governor Baker instituted the state of emergency in Massachusetts, Fairbanks remained in operation, with reduced staffing and limited contact in the laboratory, with the unfortunate result of decreased rate of progress. However with the recent award of a Payroll Protection Program loan, all Fairbanks employees are back at work, although with a limit of one technician per day to minimize chances of COVID-19 contagion. We are very grateful for the long hours spent by Middlesex Savings Bank to approve, process, and submit our loan application.
Despite our reduced presence during this period, we have continued our work toward a second generation antibody to FSTL3 and initiated a program to develop a monkey version of this antibody, which will fast-track our path to in vivo proof of concept. With this new approach, our diabetes therapy will be a more attractive and de-risked opportunity for investors.
UPDATE 3/11/20: the Endocrine Society has canceled ENDO 2020. Dr Schneyer’s abstract will be published by the Journal of the Endocrine Society; we will publish a link later in the spring when it is available.
If you’re attending this year’s Endocrine Society meeting in San Francisco, be sure to visit with Fairbanks CEO Dr. Alan Schneyer on March 30 at 9:15 AM at the “Entrepreneurship and Industry in Endocrinology” symposium promoting and discussing the entrepreneurial career path for society members. Dr Schneyer will address topics including starting a company to develop a new endocrine-related therapy or technology and funding the company through various stages. The session will be followed by a networking opportunity for additional contact with the speakers.
As highlighted recently in Endocrine News, Dr Schneyer has been promoting entrepreneurism in discussion with trainees at numerous institutions about careers in science. Part of this advocacy has been focused on creating an entrepreneurial track at professional scientific meetings such as the Endocrine Society in which he has been a member for his entire career.
On November 22, 2019 the co-Founders and employees of Fairbanks Pharmaceuticals celebrated the company’s 5th anniversary at a Springfield Thunderbirds hockey game.
Clockwise from upper left: Co-founders Alan Schneyer and Elissa Brown embrace the Thunderbird mascot; Nolan, Alexa and Andre; past and present employees including Danielle; Lara and kids and Melissa; Alden and family.
Here’s to a repeat in 5 years with a larger crowd!
CEO Alan Schneyer said, “We are looking forward to this fantastic opportunity to convey the value of the novel diabetes therapy being developed by Fairbanks. Please join us for the pitch and meet us at RESI!”
Fairbanks welcomes its newest employee Alden Richter to our growing company. Alden is currently a Massachusetts Life Science Center intern and just finished his Master’s Degree Program in Applied Molecular Biology at University of Massachusetts – Amherst. His project for the Master’s program was focused on cloning and expressing canine FSTL3 and he is continuing that work as an intern at Fairbanks. He is also using his biotechnology skills to express recombinant versions of our top candidate antibody therapies.
Alden completed his undergraduate degree in Microbiology at
University of Massachusetts – Amherst in May 2018. Prior to entering college, Alden served in
the US Army as a combat engineer including a tour in Afghanistan.
The addition of Alden will allow us to expand our research
and development of diabetes therapies to include companion animal diabetes
treatments. Cloning dog and cat FSTL3
and expressing protein is the first step in the process and we are excited to
have Alden’s expertise which will accelerate progress on this project.
CEO Alan Schneyer and COO Elissa Brown were busy today working the Innovation Zone at BIO 2019 in Philadelphia, meeting with potential partners and working to raise investment for future development of their technologies.
Fairbanks was able to display in the Innovation Zone because the company was awarded an SBIR grant in 2018. As BIO describes it, the Zone enables “Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) funded early-stage biotech companies to showcase their cutting-edge technologies, form long-term partnerships, and begin to raise funds in the private sector.”
There was a time when graduate students entering life science PhD programs set their career goals on an academic research position at a university, a view consistent with the most common advice from mentors and advisors. However, over the past 20 years or so, the number of such jobs has fallen far short of newly minted PhD’s. A recent article in Science reported that the number of new PhD’s entering the private sector was equal to those entering academia for the first time last year. Meanwhile the number of tenure track positions held by PhD’s dropped 10% since 1997 to 23%. All of this leaves mentors pondering what advice to give to new students regarding their most likely career choices as well as what is the proper number of students to accept into PhD programs given these career realities.
My experience starting Fairbanks Pharmaceuticals in 2014, after a long career in academic research, has shown me that another increasingly attractive career choice, for both new and old PhD’s, is to take an entrepreneurial approach to scientific research. While this necessitates focusing on research leading directly to commercially viable products, it is just as rewarding in terms of contributing to overall human health as the more abstract biomedical research found in academia. And, as an added bonus, it is increases the probability that research discoveries become new treatments for patients since it facilitates transfer of academic research discoveries into commercially viable therapeutic opportunities.
To advance this idea, the Endocrine Society, at my urging, held a discussion event at their 2018 annual meeting that was attended by more than thirty members, whose interests included promoting an “entrepreneurial” track and programming at the annual meeting, with the goal of helping members achieve their entrepreneurial goals. This interest led Endo to hold a symposium at the 2019 meeting in March in which three entrepreneurs at different stages of development described their experience, including my experience with Fairbanks. This presentation described how one might get started by using financing from the SBIR program at NIH.
This success has led to suggestions that the Endocrine Society test new programming at next year’s meeting in San Francisco focused specifically on entrepreneurs. Potential ideas have included a pitch competition (similar to ABC’s “Shark Tank”), a networking session with potential partners inside and outside of pharma, SBIR grant proposal training, and practicing how to speak with potential investors. Stay tuned or check with ENDO2020 in the fall of 2019 to see what programming is actually planned, and if your research is in an endocrine field, apply to participate in the competition. If this new programming is successful it might foster other professional societies to help their members enter this career track.