BioProcess Insider Interview: Darren Head, Chief Executive Officer, Bionova Scientific

BPI Contributor

August 21, 2023

2 Min Read


Millie Nelson, Editor, BioProcess Insider (left); Darren Head, Chief Executive Officer, Bionova Scientific (right).

Since 2014, CDMO Bionova Scientific has leveraged its scientific expertise to develop biological products and provide scale-up services. A year ago, the company was acquired by Asahi Kasei, a multibillion-dollar conglomerate. The new parent company helps fund Bionova’s ambitious expansion projects and puts an established name behind its services. Bionova’s expertise in scale-up complements Asahi Kasei’s other holdings, which include viral-clearance company ViruSure and Bionique Testing Laboratories.

Based in Fremont, CA, Bionova has a growing staff of more than 140 employees. The company is positioned for MAb and other protein production and has a distinguished history with development science, with experience working on complex molecules such as bispecifics and trispecifics. Head said that such history and experience helps his team manage tough projects.

To enhance its core expertise, Bionova has built a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility with an integrated Cytiva FlexFactory platform. For years, Bionova employees have used Cytiva platforms for product development, easing the transition to the new facility. “When your people are trained on one type of equipment and one software application,” said Head, “it makes it easier and faster to integrate new equipment.”

Despite his general optimism for the state of the industry, Head acknowledged market difficulties that are causing concern across the biomanufacturing sector. He said that money is tight for many companies and that the venture capital market is especially difficult for companies trying to secure capital. Valuations have increased, and people are trying to forge ahead so that they can secure series C funding.

For its part, Bionova recognizes the current difficulties. Head said that it can speed programs through the clinic and provide some services at low cost. For example, Bionova can develop cell lines quickly and cheaply so that when markets return to form, cell banks will be ready for product development and manufacturing. He said that he has seen some signs of recovery in the market, citing a recent big-money deal that Bionova signed and conversations he’s had with an executive who recently secured series C funding for a different company. Head hopes that the market will even out by the fourth quarter of 2023.

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