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Business

Janet Wolfe

Professor-turned-entrepreneur launches a contract research organization to meet growing pharma market needs

by Susan J. Ainsworth
April 15, 2013 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 91, ISSUE 15

Wolfe
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Credit: Wolfe Laboratories
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Credit: Wolfe Laboratories

When Janet Wolfe started her career, she didn’t have her sights set on being an entrepreneur. Instead, she moved into academia, serving as an assistant professor of pharmaceutical sciences at the University of Tennessee, Memphis. However, when she relocated to the Boston area with her family in 1999, she immediately “foresaw high demand for experienced pharmaceutical development contract research organizations” (CROs) to meet the needs of the many emerging biotech and pharma companies in the area, she says.

In response, that same year she founded Watertown, Mass.-based Wolfe Laboratories, which provides drug development services to companies around the world. “As I combined my love for science with a passion for free enterprise, my entrepreneurial career emerged,” Wolfe explains.

When starting the company, Wolfe relied on consulting work to generate initial revenue, which she used to add scientists and equipment, she says. The company now occupies an 18,000-sq-ft facility.

As the business has grown, it has invested heavily in its own research so it can offer its clients R&D services of comparable quality to those found in biopharmaceutical companies, Wolfe says.

Wolfe Laboratories develops analytical methods and characterizes physicochemical and biopharmaceutical properties, all of which are used to support formulation and process development for drug production. This integration of activities helps clients streamline their translational drug development programs so they can carry out proof-of-concept clinical studies faster and with reduced risk, Wolfe says.

Starting and sustaining a CRO has many challenges, she says. Those who want to follow in her footsteps should grow their networks and build their leadership, technical, and managerial capabilities, she advises.

For Wolfe, the hard work of building Wolfe Laboratories has brought many rewards. “The biggest benefit of my job is that I am surrounded by passionate, creative, driven people who love what they do and are developing medicines that will improve human health,” she says.

“Another enormous benefit is that I am constantly learning in so many disciplines, and so my job always has new challenges,” Wolfe adds. “I love what I do!”

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