Dan Custis CEO and Co-Founder, ABM

I’ve noticed everybody and their uncle want to jump into the biologicals field lately. Our sector is exploding. With that, I’ve given some thought as to where I’d like to see this industry go. What I’d like to see happen is more of what we’ve already done as a company, which is develop a true discovery-type platform with research and development. 

Our sector needs a lot more R&D. I know I’m going to be criticized for saying this because many companies feel they’ve already done that, but I believe there needs to be more proof of concept of what people are bringing to market. 

Some companies are entering products in the marketplace and they have absolutely no idea what, specifically, their biologicals do. I ran across this about 18 years ago. Companies wanted us to take on their biological products and the only data they had was collected from farmers’ fields near where they lived. I’m not saying that’s bad, but what’s needed is at least a year’s worth of replicated trial data.

I don’t doubt the field results presented to us were valid, but they must be combined with replicated field data from a third-party research company. I supplied the individuals of those companies who wanted to partner with us with a list of companies and universities, including the contacts within those organizations, that could help them create the third-party data they required. I never heard from them again.

There are basic standards that must be adopted within our industry. I don’t mean those imposed by government, but ones created by our industry. The Biological Products Industry Alliance is developing guidance on these issues of quality standards for biologicals and their formulations, and the marketing and sales of those products. 

For example, how biological companies position their products in the marketplace is important. Are companies behaving ethically by making truthful claims they can back up with data? These are the sorts of questions our sector should be asking itself.

Within our company, we move from discovery to proof of concept to field trials, and then to a commercial product and, finally, a full product launch. This is the way I’d like to see our industry go. As new companies are coming into the marketplace with their offerings, are they and their products science-based? What can we do today to foster a burgeoning science-based sector?

Now, there’s no need to shoot the messenger, because I believe this is the direction the industry is heading, and it is so positive for both the companies entering the marketplace and the end-users who’ll benefit from those products.