#WeareCvilleBioHub: Brian Wamhoff, Ph.D., Head of Innovation and COO, HemoShear Therapeutics
As part of our #WeareCvilleBioHub series, we chat with leaders in the BioHub on innovation, collaboration and the future for our biotech community here in Charlottesville.
HemoShear is one of the original companies that put Charlottesville’s biotech sector on the map more than a decade ago. What’s HemoShear’s mission today?
HemoShear is dedicated to discovering new biological targets and developing drugs that profoundly improve the lives of people born with rare metabolic diseases.
What differentiates HemoShear from other companies working to cure rare diseases?
What truly differentiates HemoShear is our platform. We have a proprietary technology that utilizes human cells from patients to recreate the dynamic biology of their disorder. Combined with cutting edge computational science, this enables us to understand the disease process better than anybody and create truly novel approaches to treat rare disorders.
What role has HemoShear played in growing the biotech industry in Charlottesville?
HemoShear and other success stories prove that a biotech company based in Charlottesville can grow from its infancy all the way through to clinical testing, and eventually marketing and commercialization, while remaining in this wonderful community.
What has been your experience as an entrepreneur?
It takes guts, hard work and sometimes a little naivety and luck to be an entrepreneur. There’s a lot of freedom that comes with being an entrepreneur, but at the end of the day, all the responsibility falls on you and the people you put around you.
What was Hemoshear’s experience raising capital in Charlottesville?
There’s really no better place for us to grow than in Charlottesville. We were able to raise money right out of the gate. There are individuals in Charlottesville who really care about growing the biotech space, true angels that came in very early and believed in what we were trying to do.
Hemoshear is known as a pioneer among Charlottesville biotech companies for raising significant non-dilutive funding. What was behind HemoShear’s success?
We did something special that no one else in the region had done and raised over $20 million in non-dilutive funding from the National Institutes of Health through the SBIR mechanism. Our science has such potential that the NIH wanted to invest more, because everything we innovated through that mechanism became a means to move potential therapeutic targets forward either internally or with our partners. NIH saw a lot of value in what we were doing because at the end of the day, the science is really important.
When you look back at over a decade of success at HemoShear, what are some of the highlights?
I remember the day we decided to treat rare disorders. Over a six-year period, we forged relationships with very sick children with these diseases most people have never heard of. We’d let them know we were here. Using their cells, we’d analyze the disease in our lab, looking for a target to understanding new mechanisms, and then ultimately, a novel therapy.
Today, you see illustrations from focus groups we have conducted with parents talking about how the diseases have impacted their families along the walls at Hemoshear. That’s motivated everyone at the company, and I never thought in my lifetime we’d be where we are.