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Meet Robert Bernard of Ichor Medical Systems in Mira Mesa

Today we’d like to introduce you to Robert Bernard.

Robert, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
Ever since my teenage years learning firsthand the principles of engineering while working in the maintenance department of a large manufacturing plant in New Orleans, I had a dream of one day applying what I was learning in the field of medicine. I went on to study mechanical and electrical engineering at the University of New Orleans and in later years took various courses in life science at the University of Louisiana in Lafayette. Throughout those years I never lost track of my dream and after I sold my first business to Nestle in 1992, I left Louisiana for San Diego with the hope of finding an opportunity in biotech well-aligned with my creative entrepreneurial skills. By October 1994, I had fulfilled my obligations to Nestle and with my former partner started Ichor in a small lab on the General Atomics campus in San Diego.

Has it been a smooth road?
It has certainly not been a smooth road, but at our core we have well-formulated experience-based entrepreneurial philosophies that have guided us well. 1) From the start we relied on non-dilutive SBIR grants to develop our core technology. I stood firm in the belief that if we could not convey our ideas and plans in such manner that we received these grant awards, then we should either dramatically improve our communications skills, or choose another line of work. We got our answer… over the years, Ichor has received over 30 grants and contracts from various divisions of the US government. 2) Ichor has always placed science-first. In doing so, we believe that we also place the patients’ best interest first. This philosophy underpinned Ichor’s acceptance of requests for access to its TriGrid technology from many esteemed collaborators around the world. In effect, Ichor has leveraged a global network of scientific collaborators’ infrastructures and budgets to advance the clinical and eventual commercial use of its patented technologies. In the aftermath of these many events leading to numerous clinical studies, we believe we have also made the best long-term business decisions. 3) As founder, CEO, and shareholder with controlling interest, I worked the first 18 years without any salary. I have also provided the bulk of non-grant funding to the company. By maintaining control of the company, I have also assured that we stay true to our science-first / patient-first philosophy. 4) Through my many actions I consistently demonstrate that I put Ichor’s interests ahead of my own. I have been most fortunate to have many Ichor employees that demonstrate through their actions the same dedication to the company. They are truly remarkable!

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Ichor Medical Systems story. Tell us more about the business.
Ichor is a privately owned clinical stage San Diego based biotech recognized as a world leader in its field. Its patented technology is known as the TriGrid Delivery System, a medical device utilizing electroporation (i.e., pulsed electrical fields) for the intracellular delivery of DNA vaccines used primarily to treat various cancers and chronic viral infections such as HPV, hepatitis, and HIV. DNA vaccines are a new class of immunotherapy designed to elicit T-cell responses in the body which are critically important to fight chronic diseases. However, to be effective these vaccines must first reach their site of action inside the nucleus of the cells in the local (olive-sized) region of muscle tissue where they are administered. The delivery of DNA vaccines into the nucleus has been a longstanding complex problem that TriGrid solves improving the DNA vaccine T-cell response 100 to 1000 fold. Because TriGrid electroporation offers a broad technology platform for new product development across a spectrum of diseases, Ichor elected to form a global network of research collaborations spanning 6 of 7 continents (all but Antarctica), rather than limit access to its enabling TriGrid to internal programs. Spawned from Ichor’s collaborative science-first philosophy, TriGrid delivery has been an essential component to over 25 human studies conducted on four continents over the past 10 years. In January 2014 Ichor entered into a collaboration and worldwide commercial license agreement with Pfizer to develop a broad line of cancer immunotherapies. The first of what may be many Pfizer DNA vaccine-based immunotherapy treatment regimens entered clinical evaluation for prostate cancer in 2016. In January 2015 Ichor entered into a collaboration and worldwide license agreement with Janssen Pharmaceuticals (Johnson and Johnson) for the treatment of chronic hepatitis B virus. Ichor has several other preclinical product evaluations underway with plans to initiate another 7 human clinical studies in 2018.

How do you think the industry will change over the next decade?
After decades of research, we are witnessing products gaining FDA approval that effectively harness the patient’s immune system to fight cancer and other debilitating diseases. In many regards, immunotherapies are still in their infancy with many more product offerings coming down the pike. The future belongs to those products that deliver superior patient outcomes while lessening harmful side effects and reducing overall healthcare costs. Ichor and its many partners believe the TriGrid / DNA vaccine platform will be an important component to these future immunotherapy treatment regimens.

Contact Info:

  • Address: 6310 Nancy Ridge Dr
    Suite 107
    San Diego, CA
    92121
  • Website: www.ichorms.com
  • Phone: 8585502022
  • Email: inquiries@ichorms.com


Image Credit:
United Scientific Group

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