By Max Donley
EVP, Internal Operations and Strategy at Aurinia Pharmaceuticals Inc.
Last month, I was chosen to speak on a panel with leaders in the biotech industry and we all had two things in common: a great appreciation for this emerging life sciences region along with office headquarters in Montgomery County, MD.
It’s no secret the Maryland/DC region has been up-and-coming as a Life Sciences hub over the last decade or so, and I’m proud to say that Aurinia is part of leading this growth. With our move last year to establish a U.S. hub here in Rockville and build on our headquarters in Victoria, B.C., we’ve played a role in making this area a more powerful life sciences destination.
At Aurinia, our mission is to transform people’s lives by delivering therapeutics that change the course of autoimmune disease. We view improving the health of patients and helping patients with chronic unmet needs like lupus nephritis as our responsibility. It is not just a privilege to be working in the lupus space, but an obligation, and the county and the state’s recognition and support of this obligation is a tremendous resource for our ability to support our patients.
We established our U.S. commercial headquarters in Montgomery County in the midst of lockdown with a long-term view that this move to a growing life sciences sector would only serve to advance the development of our company over the coming months and years. We were not alone – as Washington Post columnist Robert McCartney noted in a recent article, the area has continued to grow and thrive through the pandemic, a small silver lining in this unimaginable crisis. Since establishing our local presence, the Aurinia team has been proud to have received FDA approval for our new therapy earlier this year, and for our new Montgomery County hub to serve as home base for our early commercialization efforts.
I feel fortunate to have witnessed the growth in the Montgomery county area over my career, with companies including Medimmune, Sucampo and now Aurinia, and to have seen and worked with the strong talent that exists in this region. It shouldn’t be a huge surprise that Montgomery County has attracted such strong biopharma expertise over the years. Home of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the FDA and 38 federal labs, and with nearly $8 billion in funding flowing into the life sciences sector in 2020 alone, this area is a hotbed of scientific research and accomplishment.
Over the years, the investment that the county, the state and the region have put into supporting biopharma here has transformed the landscape and we’re now seeing the fruits of this labor in the incredible accomplishments achieved throughout the region. This has created a more diverse and supportive landscape for companies like ours to grow and flourish in the biopharma space. It’s been a fun journey, and there is certainly plenty more opportunities for those currently here and future tenants to make meaningful impacts in treating diseases for patients and their families in need of support.
I couldn’t be happier to be able to call Montgomery County my home for over 20 years. Not only is it a fantastic place to both work, but live as well. The Nation’s capital is right down the road, there is a fantastic network of school systems across all levels of education and the more people that flock towards the region only increase its liveliness and diversity. Not to mention our hometown Washington Nationals and Capitals bringing two championships home to add to our hometown pride!
For all of the above reasons I’m proud to be a part of the change happening in Montgomery County, to build our Aurinia team in the U.S. here, and to share our culture with the local community.