Pennsylvania Biotech: Combating Rare Diseases Worldwide
CSL Behring may be the best-kept secret in the biopharmaceutical industry today. In advance of Rare Disease Day 2018 (February 28), we spoke to Karen Etchberger, the King of Prussia site leader and EVP of Quality and Business Services at CSL Behring, to find out why her company chose Pennsylvania and how their work contributes to communities in the Keystone State and worldwide.
How did CSL Behring land in King of Prussia?
CSL, our parent company, was founded in 1916 as an Australian government agency named Commonwealth Serum Laboratories to produce vaccines and other medicines needed during World War I. In 1994, CSL went public on the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX). Since then, the company has grown substantially. We’ve acquired a number of companies, including ZLB from the Swiss Red Cross, and Aventis Behring, which traces its heritage back to Emil von Behring, the German physiologist who was awarded the first Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1901.
Today, CSL is the world’s eighth-largest biotech leader, providing medicines in more than 60 countries with over 20,000 employees and annual revenue of $7 billion. CSL Behring accounts for more than 90 percent of the revenue.
The Aventis Behring acquisition gave us global scale in the protein-therapeutics market, and one of their facilities was located in King of Prussia. That’s how we ended up in Pennsylvania, and our operational headquarters has been located here since 2005. Thanks to our history, CSL Behring has become the innovative global leader it is today.
What makes your company unique?
For over 100 years, we have been patient-focused, serving the needs of people. We develop and produce medicines based on human need, not market size.
It’s particularly inspiring when patients visit the King of Prussia campus and our employees meet and engage with them. It brings home the importance of what we do and the difference we make in people’s lives. CSL CEO and Managing Director, Paul Perreault, often reminds us to come to work each day as if someone’s life depends on it, because it usually does.
CSL Behring offers the broadest range of quality plasma-derived and recombinant therapies in our industry. Our therapies are indicated for bleeding disorders, immunodeficiency and autoimmune diseases, inherited and acquired bleeding disorders, chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy, hereditary angioedema, neurological disorders and Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency, as well as transplantation and critical care.
We’re also excited about some of the new compounds in our pipeline that are now in clinical development. These include CSL112, a novel apoliprotein A-1 (apo-A1) infusion therapy developed to reduce the high incidence of early recurrent cardiovascular events that occur in the first 90 days following a heart attack.
Innovation is in our DNA, and we’ve been recognized for our pioneering work by patient organizations worldwide. The National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD) presented CSL Behring with the 2017 Industry Innovation Award for developing our long-acting fusion protein for patients with hemophilia B. We also received the Philadelphia Business Journal 2017 Healthcare Innovator of the Year Award for developing the first and only subcutaneous preventive treatment option for hereditary angioedema.
What makes your company Pennsylvania Proud?
Over the last five years we’ve grown tremendously, nearly doubling our employee base from approximately 400 in King of Prussia to about 750 employees today. As the company has grown, we’ve had to make difficult decisions about the location of our operational headquarters, and whether it was in CSL Behring’s strategic interests to remain here.
We looked at relocating to a number of other potential areas, but we always chose to stay in Pennsylvania, in part because of the region’s robust talent base and quality of life for our employees. Our pledge to our employees is to help them grow, learn, develop, and do their best work in a patient-focused, innovative, collaborative, and ethical environment.
Our King of Prussia offices are ideally located close to Philadelphia, one of the most historic cities in the U.S. We continue to renovate and enhance our facility to accommodate our growth, which is running at a rate of about 10 percent per year.
Our community partnerships have also been a factor in remaining in the region — we have strong relationships with area hospitals and institutions, and have partnered with Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Temple, and Jefferson Hospitals on research projects. We’re also helping transform biotech education and research in Pennsylvania. Recently we presented a $5 million gift to Pennsylvania State University to create the multidisciplinary Center of Excellence in Biotechnology and to revitalize the Shared Fermentation Facility, an engine for collaboration and innovation in biological training and research.
CSL Behring is a major contributor to the United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey. We’re proud to be in PA, and we’re committed to staying and growing here.
Visit the CSL Behring website to learn more about their work with life-saving biotherapies. To learn more about Pennsylvania’s life sciences industry, visit the DCED website. Continue to stay up-to-date on all Pennsylvania company news by following us on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook, and sign up for our monthly e-newsletter.
Karen Etchberger is the executive vice president for quality and business services at CSL Behring.