From Supply Chain Solutions to Molecular Tools, Carlsbad Biotechs are Combating COVID-19

June 1, 2020

“In this time of crisis, we must do everything we can to protect the safety, health, and wellbeing of our colleagues, our clients and the community at large.” saysGordon Krass, CEO of Carlsbad’s IntelliGuard, a groundbreaking company that helps hospitals track, trace and manage medications.

IntelliGuard is just one of many Carlsbad companies that have played critical roles in fighting the new coronavirus, which causes the COVID-19 disease that has infected millions of people around the world.

IntelliGuard employees. Courtesy photo

Founded in 2006, IntelliGuard, provides supply chain solutions for inventory management of critical drugs used in hospitals throughout the US, Canada and Europe.

“The coronavirus pandemic exposed several vulnerabilities in our healthcare system, with the biggest being the lack of technology to rapidly address real-time issues,” Krass said. “While it isn’t a new debate, we’ve seen on a national scale that we need technology integrated into our hospitals and healthcare systems now more than ever. Combining Radio Frequency Identification technology with our software and hardware solutions, our customers are able to see every item in real time – both what the item is and where it is located, helping them manage their critical medications.”

While IntelliGuard is helping hospitals develop their technology to track life-saving drugs, just up the road in Carlsbad, Active Motif Inc. is helping researchers around the world study COVID-19.

Scientists at Active Motif, a leader in supplying life science researchers’ molecular tools for studying epigenetics, helped isolate antibodies from some of the first patients in China that successfully battled the novel disease.

“[The scientists] managed to clone and express the antibody genes and these recombinant antibodies were released to the research community in March and are now in the hands of researchers, diagnostic and pharma companies throughout the world,” Ted DeFrank, CEO of Active Motif, said. “Active Motif is continuing its work on these antibodies and additional ones as its contribution to ending this pandemic.”

Active Motif was founded in 1999 by leading scientist Joseph Fernandez, who also co-founded Carlsbad’s Invitrogen, which is now a part of Thermo Fisher.

Active Motif’s Judy Wu works in a lab prior to the shelter-in-place order. Courtesy photo

Both Krass and DeFrank said the significant work of their employees, many working remotely , would be difficult without the supportive ecosystem found in Carlsbad.

“In 1997, Invitrogen relocated to Carlsbad because it was an area where it was easy to recruit young scientists and its business-friendly environment,” DeFrank said. “One could argue that without Joe moving his family to Carlsbad that the Thermo Fisher campus might not be here today.  It is great to see the number of life science companies in Carlsbad compared to just the handful back in the late 1990s.”

DeFrank said the city is a “natural place” for Active Motif and its employees to call home “given the excellent business climate and the number of life scientists already living in the Carlsbad area.”

Krass echoed DeFrank’s comments, saying it “wasn’t a tough choice” to build IntelliGuard in Carlsbad.

IntelliGuard, which spun off from Safety Syringes, moved to the coastal city for “more space for engineering and development,” Krass said.

“Carlsbad is frequently regarded as being very small-business-friendly and a leader in both the technology and energy spaces,” he  said. “More specifically, the city has an abundance of medical device companies and employees and is one of the leading cities for patent creation and approval. Being able to easily hire exceptional talent, partner with companies, and expand our patent portfolio using resources and expertise within our own community has been incredibly valuable.”

That value has been proven in the amount of work Carlsbad companies and their employees have done to fight the novel coronavirus. But, the work of Active Motif and IntelliGuard isn’t stopping anytime soon. In fact, Krass said the pandemic has highlighted problems that will need to be solved.

“The healthcare industry must quickly resolve new and existing issues before we’re faced with a scenario like this again,” Krass said.

Those issues could be resolved in the future with the continued talent and discoveries found in Carlsbad’s life science industry.

“Carlsbad has long been a hub for innovation and life sciences companies and talent,” Matt Sanford, manager of the City of Carlsbad’s Economic Development Division, said. “It is also a city with a long history of collaboration. For a virus like COVID-19, which demands a global response, it is no wonder we see Carlsbad companies jumping in to find solutions and innovate new processes that address the challenges of today and set a stronger foundation for the future.”