Q&A with Joe Bertelsen, new Director of IPI’s Antibody Initiative
Joe Bertelsen’s foray into the reagent antibody world began with a chance meeting at a networking event. It launched a two-decade career, leading teams that developed and implemented commercial and research and development strategies. With stints in leadership at Abcam, Covance and Signet Laboratories, Joe has cultivated a deep understanding of what it takes to succeed in the antibody business. He talks about his work and IPI’s unique ability as a nonprofit to disrupt the antibody market.
Q1: Can you describe what led to your 20 plus year career in the antibody field?
Bertelsen: In 1999, I met the owner of an antibody start up, Signet Laboratories, at a biotech networking event. He had just acquired antibodies to neurobiology targets related to Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. He asked me if I would head up the product line, and having degrees in Chemical Engineering and Pharmaceutical Medicine and an interest in neuroscience, I decided I would try it for six months. Ten years later, I was still there as the company was sold to Covance.
Q2: What were the key factors influencing your decision to join IPI?
Bertelsen: I feel privileged to work with the top people in the antibody and protein field. Also, I am excited by IPI’s mission and its potential to create a disruptive entity. Having worked more than 20 years in the antibody field, I am cognizant that changes need to be made to ensure scientists get quality tools to perform their critical research. IPI has positioned itself to drive these changes, and I welcome the chance to be involved.
Q3: From your experience, what makes a company or institution successful in the reagent antibody industry?
Bertelsen: Success first and foremost is based on delivering a high quality solution that addresses a critical need. This is true for any industry. However, there is significant effort that needs to be made upstream and downstream from the creation of the product in order to impact a market. Developing strong relationships with key opinion leaders in a field is essential to keep a portfolio strategy aligned with the true needs of the market. It also serves to keep fresh and innovative ideas driving the evolution of product lines.
Q4: Do you see these characteristics at IPI?
Bertelsen: Yes. Improving the overall quality of antibodies available to the scientific community is woven into the fabric of IPI. In addition, the Institute is not just connected with key opinion leaders in the antibody and protein field, it is composed of key opinion leaders in the antibody and protein field.
Q5: Your professional positions to this point have been with for-profit entities. How will these experiences help you at IPI?
Bertelsen: Hgh quality products are the number one differentiator of any life science entity. Also critical is an intimate understanding of the needs of the scientific community, regardless of the business model.
Q6: What excites you about being with a non-profit?
Bertelsen: The freedom to focus on technologies that are best suited to scientific advancement and improving human health, as opposed to being constrained by fiscal results. IPI’s open platform. And the high energy, entrepreneurial environment present at IPI.
Q7: In your view, what is IPI’s future?
Bertelsen: The technology and expertise present at the Institute will most certainly place it at the leading edge of the antibody industry. But it isn’t just about making reagents. It is more about offering our experience to the scientific community to drive the development of the most critical reagents, while reducing the time and money wasted on low quality, poorly designed products. IPI will bring scientists closer to the development and characterization of the antibodies they need, as opposed to choosing them after they are developed and on the market.