This has been a year marked by many notable biotech deals, especially in the immunotherapy market. One deal, in particular, has generated more local excitement in the BioHealth Capital Region than any other; that is the BeneVir acquisition by Janssen, a JNJ company. Likewise, of the many startup stories and local entrepreneurs we’ve highlighted this past year, none is as unique and interesting as that of BeneVir Co-Founder and COO, Katherine (Katie) Sacksteder, PhD.
From landing the perfect first job for a budding entrepreneur in training to launching with a startup with her husband, while raising two young kids, to a series of market events that seemed to pave the way for BeneVir’s big acquisition; Katie’s story is both impressive and inspirational.
I am excited and honored to share this interview so that others can hear the incredible journey that Katie has been on that led BeneVir to their blockbuster acquisition.
[BioBuzz] You’ve had some exciting news since we last saw each other early this Spring. For our readers who don’t know you yet, please tell us a little about you and your company. Oh, and the big news this past Spring.[Katie] My name is Katie Sacksteder, and I’m the COO and a founder of BeneVir. We founded BeneVir in 2011 to develop a herpes-based oncolytic virus (OV) platform technology that we licensed out of NYU. In May of this year we signed a deal to be acquired by Janssen Biotech, Inc., one of the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson, for a total deal value of potentially >$1B, provided all milestones are met.
What has this year been like for you, personally and professionally?
A lot has happened in the last year, and I remember very little of it! Just over a year ago I had my second son, and so we were dealing with a newborn and a toddler while working on the deal with Janssen and keeping the development plan on track. While we had experience with newborns, we didn’t have experience with selling a company. So it was quite a learning experience: we were trying to keep the product development moving along while simultaneously being responsive to Janssen’s science team, our lawyers, and our investors. I should have mentioned that I founded BeneVir with my husband, Matt Mulvey, who is the CEO of BeneVir, so our household was at a constant stress level of nuclear. But we survived.