Editor’s note: Allan Maurer’s BioWatch column is a regular Friday feature of Local Tech Wire. Although information technology consultants multiply like bugs in Microsoft products, far fewer specialize in biotechnology consulting.

Two seasoned biotechnology professionals have attracted an impressive list of clients to their fledgling Biotech consultant business in the Triangle, called BioPharma.

Robert Keefer, who holds a Ph.D. in medical chemistry, and Leisa Dennehy are managing directors of BioPharma, which they formed in October last year.

Keefer has worked on consulting on consulting projects for a list of top-line clients such as GlaxoSmithKline, Nobex Corp., Dupont, Corning, and the American Chemical Society, among others.

Dennehy worked 14 years on the commercial side of drug marketing for GlaxoWelcome and Procter & Gamble. In addition to a MBA from Duke, she holds undergraduate degrees in chemistry and medical technology.

Knowing science and business

Dennehy tells Local Tech Wire that because both she and Keefer have science backgrounds they have an advantage in helping biotech companies establish successful strategies to market their products from inception to the end of a drug’s life cycle.

“We were both science-based before we got into business and corporate development,” Dennehy says, “so we understand a company’s underlying technology form a molecular standpoint.”

BioPharma outlines the seven different services it offers clients on its Web site. They include: technology and portfolio assessment; development planning and execution; pre-launch brand planning and post launch brand management and finally, defense planning for the end of a product’s lifecycle.

The firm has already attracted an impressive client list. It consults for GlaxoSmithKline, Nanogen (a San Diego-based public company into molecular diagnostics), British-based Oxford Glyco-Sciences (a proteomics company), and Triangle start-ups BioSignia and Apothogen.

They have also worked with notable venture capitalists and investment bankers, including: Chemical Venture Partners; Hambrecht & Quist; Kleiner Perkins Caulfield and Byers; Robertson Coleman & Stevens;
and Thomas, Knight, Trent, King & Company.

‘Widely diverse perspectives’

Joe Chimera, vice president of corporate development at BioSignia, says, “I was initially attracted to BioPharma Consultants’ solid track record and the quality of their contacts in our industry. We’ve perhaps benefited most from the widely diverse perspectives the firm brings … big business vs. entrepreneurial, technical vs. marketing, conservative vs. untraditional.”

A pleased Dennehy says: “We exceeded all expectations in the business we booked.”

Business is good enough that BioPharma seeks analysts and professional consultants with biotech experience, especially if the experience is on the client side.

BioPharma’s fee structure varies depending on the nature of its projects and the size of their clients. It charges billable hours to a Glaxo, but considers a “success fee” or equity for young companies.

“For a small start-up, we work more on a success-fee basis or take equity as part of our compensation,” Dennehy explains. “We try to be flexible.”

Dennehy says BioPharma works differently than many consultants. “We work oriented beyond just our project,” she says.

“Most consulting firms cook up great ideas and drop them off at your door. But many companies need help navigating the way. We go onsite and work along side clients if need be. We don’t just waltz in and waltz out.”

She says most of BioPharma’s projects “are pretty deep and intense. You could do a Master’s thesis once you understand the technology. Then you say here’s what you can do with it as a business, who your customers are and the work you need to do to reach them.”

The company’s Web site offers case studies of work it did for various clients in each area of its expertise: www.biopharma-consultants.com