Proxima Aims to Fill CRO Gap for Houston’s Growing Biotech Community

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exchanging ideas,” he says.

Many CROs do work with early stage companies, but help to offset the lower fees or lack of fees—since startups typically do not have a lot of capital—by providing these services to larger companies as well, or taking equity stakes in the startups, Gertler says. “It can be very hard to work with [early stage] companies,” he says. “But if you help these companies to reach a cogent business plan and render them fundable, they are going to be very loyal and trust you and that’s an investment that’s worth making.”

Kennedy says Proxima will be able to keep costs low because, since they are located in JLabs, the CRO can use those facilities. “We don’t have to build out lab space,” she says.

Trends in the CRO industry—such as consolidation among big players and increased usage of CROs by big pharma—may also point to a market opportunity in catering to biotech startups. “This is my fourth biopharmaceutical development company that I’ve run as a CEO, and in almost every instance the CROs … they give you little attention,” Marty Driscoll, CEO of Spring Bank Pharmaceuticals, said in a BioPharma Dive article in January. “We get much less attention than the large pharmas where they have preferred arrangements with and the bulk of the revenue is generated in those organizations.”

To round out Proxima’s executive team, Lawson enlisted Kevin Coker, a former executive with McKesson and the US Oncology Network, as co-founder and CEO; and Jaye Thompson, most recently a senior executive in regulatory affairs with Repros Therapeutics (NASDAQ: RPRX) and Opexa Therapeutics, as co-founder and COO. “Proxima will be a great resource for our community—especially for device companies,” which don’t have a CRO dedicated to them at the early stages in the area, says Ann Tanabe, CEO of the life sciences advocacy group BioHouston.

Proxima joins a number of other businesses in the Houston area providing similar services such as Indianapolis-based Pearl Pathways, the oncology-focused MedSource, and Tribe Clinical Development.

So far, Proxima is working with seven early stage companies. “Like the startups, we want to convey an entrepreneurial mindset when we work with them,” Kennedy says.

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