Talk is Biotech! with Aruna Somasiri

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Talk is Biotech! with Aruna Somasiri

Guru sat down with Aruna Somasiri, President of Wax-It Histology Services, to talk about how his company is committed to providing high-quality histological services to the international scientific research community, the reason behind drugs being so expensive nowadays, what is a "lab next door" business model and much more.

Wax-it's driving force is to have an impact on science and R&D

It becomes important to stand out as competition increases if you want to survive and thrive. Wax-it has established a feedback loop and along with a collaborative approach, they are able to stand out. However, their main strength lies in them being honest with their clients and letting them know if a project is not going to work. Their driving force is not just money but to have an impact on science and R&D.

Can we create our own greater Boston area in Canada?

With the biotech industry rapidly expanding first in Vancouver and then in British Columbia, brings the question that could Canada be the next mecca for Biotech? Aruna thinks it's possible. He talks about the large-scale investment that happened in the last few months and local companies like Abcellera and Precision Nanosystems growing by leaps by bounds. So there definitely is a lot of interest, a lot of investments, and a lot of jobs being created. 

Wax-it's innovative "lab next door" business model

Aruna tells us how Wax-it is not your standard "cookie-cutter lab" where you send your samples and get a report. What differentiates Wax-it is their creative business model where they offer more of a "lab next door approach". How this works is for every project, they have someone directly working with their client's research team giving updates, feedback, and having discussions. This allows their clients to better understand the project and try to make modifications and changes they need to achieve their research goals.

Why are drugs so expensive nowadays?

As one wonders about the high costs of drugs these days, Aruna gives us some insight into why that might be. Drug R&D is costly right from the beginning as a pharma company will often start with a high number of candidates. Only 10% might make it to clinical trials, and of this 10%, only 1 might become a drug. Now, the pharma company needs to make up revenue for the other candidates that failed. So that 1 drug will carry the cost of that 99 candidates. That’s one expensive price tag.

How smaller biotech companies made a big impact during the Covid crisis

Aruna talks about the importance of how smaller companies like BioNtech and Acutus Medicals provided the technology that helped big pharma companies like Pfizer, AstraZeneca, J&J, and Lilly come up with the vaccine. He gives a specific example in the case of Lilly's Covid Drug in which the antibody was identified by a smaller company named AbCellera. These smaller companies are finally getting recognized for their work and getting a good payoff as well.

Advice for bio entrepreneurs

Aruna gives it to us straight. He talks about the increased competition one faces when starting a new company nowadays. But if one can find a niche area and be able to support it, then one can differentiate themselves from the competition. He suggests "jump in with both feet" because even if one fails after starting, one can still learn from it, pivot, and make it work.

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