A year ago, John Biglin, the CEO of Interphase Systems, was talking to the CFO of an emerging Center City pharmaceutical company.
The CFO, intent on keeping in order the financial house of his blue-chip invested life sciences startup, had a problem.
“Is it normal that sometimes you don’t get e-mails, or e-mails take a couple days to arrive or when you do get them, they come in triplicate?” Biglin remembers the CFO asking.
“Our IT has been cobbled together by an employee or by his nephew or uncle,” Biglin recalls the CFO and others in his position saying. “Someone just shows up in a truck and sets stuff up in our office. If the FDA came in here and we say we can’t produce this lab data or that, we are out of business.”
The CFO talked about multiple versions of contracts lost, emergency Best Buy trips for whatever hardware is on sale and documents that are never seen again.
That conversation last January set into motion the long-discussed plans for Interphase, which does 60 percent of its business in the life sciences, to develop a turn-key, managed IT platform targeted for small and medium-sized emerging pharmaceutical and biomedical companies that need top-level security, guaranteed disaster recovery, FDA compliance and flexibility. Biglin says that Ready-IT BioPharma, which launched late last month, just might be the only system of its kind.
“These companies are started by scientists or investors,” Biglin, who founded Interphase in 1995, tells Technically Philly. The stakes are high, deadlines come fast and so all the capital that comes into these startups are thrown at developing that device or that drug or that treatment.
Whether the Philadelphia region is a successful enough hotbed for emerging life sciences technology or not is a bit of a disputed conversation.
SR One chief Russel Grieg told us he’s always been “disappointed” by biomedical entrepreneurship in Philadelphia, something others have cautiously echoed. NuPathe CEO Jane Hollingsworth told us that that is developing and the region is strengthening.
Interphase CEO John Biglin says Philadelphia’s life science startup community isn’t necessarily underrated or overrated.
“I do think there is a hot bed here. It’s not what Silicon Valley was for technology, but I still think it is a phenomenal place to launch a venture,” he says, citing the University City Science Center and Ben Franklin Technology Partners and the Eastern Technology Council and the Wharton SBDC.
“There are a lot of big pharma companies and it’s true that they do take a lot of talent [away from starting up their own ventures],” Biglin says, noting he regularly stumbles upon new life science startups in the region. “But the other side of that is a lot of companies are spinoffs from bigger companies, like Endo Pharmaceuticals, which was started by folks from DuPont. The balance and trade off is that there are so many resources here.”
So Interphase wanted to find a more cohesive way for these life science companies to outsource their IT. That solution is Ready-IT.
In addition to disaster recovery support and the guarantee that the system is running in compliance with FDA security demands, the package includes 50 document templates common to companies in the industry. The platform also includes pre-configured industry-standard software, like Microsoft Exchange and a developed SharePoint, which Biglin says can make an emerging firm even more attractive for acquisition.
“You’ll already be using the same systems and technologies of all the big pharmaceutical companies like a Wyeth or a Merck,” Biglin says. The cost varies by expectations and wants of the client but ballparks at “a couple hundred bucks” per user, Biglin says.
Ready-IT, which runs in two separate data centers, makes sense for a company of a dozen to a couple hundred employees, Biglin says, but the “sweet spot” is probably 40-80 employees.
Now, the 50-employee company with offices in Plymouth Meeting and Bedminster, N.J. is seeking pilot partners for January. Ready-IT has early interest from companies in Southern California, Pittsburgh and across the Philadelphia region, Biglin says.
Biglin, who before founding Interphase was a senior IBM consultant working with large pharmaceutical and financial services companies, says now the work is showing off Ready-IT to companies in the region and across the country.
“This product is coming from people who have lived the pharma life. The technology works, it’s best-in-class and ready to serve as a full IT department for a company that wants to focus on other things,” says Biglin, a South Jersey-native with nearly 20 years as a Pennsylvanian. “We built this to be a game-changer.”
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