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June 29, 2015 Issue

The Most Powerful Name In Corporate News and Information


Chemistry Services for Pharmaceutical and Biotechnology Companies


Dr. Bhaskar Venepalli

CEO & Co-Founder




Interview conducted by:

Lynn Fosse, Senior Editor, CEOCFO Magazine, Published – June 29, 2015


CEOCFO: Dr. Venepalli, what is the basic idea at CiVentiChem?

Dr. Venepalli: We are a CRO (Contract Research Organization), and we provide chemistry services for pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies. That means that we discover drugs, or new chemical entities for these companies.


CEOCFO: What types of organizations do you typically work with?

Dr. Venepalli: Our most preferred customers are small to mid-sized to large pharma and other life sciences companies as well as startup companies.


CEOCFO: Your website indicates, “Simple solutions for complex chemistry”. How does that translate into what you do day-to-day?

Dr. Venepalli: All of our staff are Ph.D. Chemists. We work with complex synthetic molecules, and most of the new chemical entities or new drugs are very difficult to make. Therefore, we have to work with very talented chemists to provide these solutions in making the molecules. That is why we have the tagline on our website of “Simple solutions for complex chemistry”. We can solve very difficult chemistry problems.


CEOCFO: Are companies coming to you because of your expertise or because they just cannot do it themselves in-house?

Dr. Venepalli: It is a combination of both. Many companies used to do their own internal research up until several years ago. In the last ten to fifteen years companies started slowly outsourcing chemistry work. Therefore, they go outside of their company because of the special expertise that we have and also because they do not have the internal capabilities.


CEOCFO: Would you walk us through an initial contact with a potential client?

Dr. Venepalli: Clients come to us because they are having a problem making a molecule and they want us to make it for them. We have to go back to the drawing board, look at what we know, what is known in literature and come up with a synthetic plan and an execution plan. Then go back to the client and tell them how much time it may take, what is known, what is unknown and whether we feel confident or will need to do some more research, as well as how much it may cost. After we get an agreement with them we will do the work and then will provide those molecules for them to test. Ultimately, the hope is that they will become pharmaceutical drugs in the market place.


CEOCFO: You have facilities in the US, as well as India. What do you do at the different facilities? Is it the same at both or do they each serve a different function?

Dr. Venepalli: We started in the US about 22 years ago, so we are a US company. Primarily our US based chemists are more experienced. Therefore, we work with the highly sophisticated molecule synthesis here and then we also have a facility with labs and a plant in India because some of our clients now do go outside of the United States for getting their work done. In India we also have a plant, as we are a manufacturer of large volume materials, whereas in the US we can only make a few grams to hundreds of grams of compounds. In India we can make hundreds to thousands of kilograms.


CEOCFO: Are there services that you do not offer today that you would like to add to the mix or areas that you would like to expand upon?

Dr. Venepalli: We are already thinking of expanding or adding to our capabilities to make pharmaceuticals that will go into human consumption. For this we will need to have a US FDA registered facility, as we have to follow certain guidelines to make sure that the products are made in a clean environment, following the protocols set by the United Stated FDA. That is something that we have started on a small scale right now in the US, and we want to expand that make high value low volume APIs.


CEOCFO: Why is now the time for this expansion?

Dr. Venepalli: We are expanding into the area of pharmaceuticals for human consumption because some of our clients who are small companies do not have their own lab and it take about 10 years for a compound to move from the lab into the clinical trials. Therefore, we are looking to fulfill that requirement.


CEOCFO: How is business?

Dr. Venepalli: Business has been really good. It is a tough environment we have a great deal of competition, but we have some unique customers that we have been working with over the last 20 years.


CEOCFO: How do you find the right people for your organization?

Dr. Venepalli: That is a very interesting question because we are not a large company, so many of the scientists that we hire are chemists. We have to find the right group of people who can work and thrive in a small company environment. Most of the time we have been fortunate to find some people like that from local schools. We have also hired some people from out of state. In addition, most of my staff has been with me over the last 10 years.


CEOCFO: Do you make use of technology today to do your work?

Dr. Venepalli: From a chemistry synthesis point of view that is what we do. The IT technology that changed so much is helpful in communication, from ideation, but the traditional work that we do has not changed much. It is much like cooking. There may be new recipes, but you still need pots and pans to do the cooking. Therefore, some of the things that we do is the same as the past 15 years, but the technology has helped us to do some planning and searching.


CEOCFO: When you are working with a company and trying to find a new chemical entity, does gut feeling come into play? Does your experience make a difference in the decision to work with a compound?

Dr. Venepalli: Absolutely! That is very important and people come to us because of that type of expertise. Many times a client will come to us with an idea that we have tried in the past that does not work and we have to tell them so. Then we have to convince them as to what we think is better and ultimately we can demonstrate what will work. However, there are also times that we get into a project and it does not work, but that is the way it works in the research field.


CEOCFO: Are you working with highly confidential ideas?

Dr. Venepalli: Most of the work that we do is highly confidential. Therefore, all of the work that we do has to be done under a confidentiality agreement. This means that we cannot share it with anyone else, because for our customers this is proprietary information and leads to patenting.


CEOCFO: Would you tell us about the work you do with specialty chemicals and other types of chemical companies?

Dr. Venepalli: Most of our works comes from pharma and biotech--about 65%. As you know, most of the things that we use today in our human lives are chemicals, such as soap, shampoo, cosmetics and nail polish. Most people think that chemicals are bad, but it is not true. We have been fortunate to find some clients that work in the cosmetics industry, and we provide some high value materials for them. We also work with some companies in the electronics industry for chips and there are chemicals involved there as well. We also work with some Agro-chemical companies, companies that are involved in diagnostics such as in blood testing. These are all areas where chemicals are required.


CEOCFO: What has surprised you as CiVentiChem has grown and evolved?

Dr. Venepalli: I come from a very humble background and started this company with a friend from Duke, but we did not know what we were getting into. However, one thing that surprised me was the responsibility that we have to pay our bills every month and meet our payroll every month, this will not go away. The second thing that I found is that there are so many people who are very kind and helpful to small business like ours and they are willing to go out of their way to help us.


CEOCFO: Put it together for our readers. Why choose CiVentiChem?

Dr. Venepalli: We are very nimble, but very efficient. We have demonstrated success and we have established a reputation in the past 20 years. That is why many of our customers have been with us over the past 20 years. They keep coming back to us.


CEOCFO: Final thoughts?

Dr. Venepalli: Starting this business is a dream for me and I am glad that I did. Even though my title is CEO, I am involved with many things, including thinking chemistry, ordering chemicals and mingling with other CEOs, as well as developing relationships with venture capital people. These are very high profile people, so this has been a very rewarding experience for me.


“We have demonstrated success and we have established a reputation in the past 20 years. That is why many of our customers have been with us over the past 20 years.” - Dr. Bhaskar Venepalli





Andrea Vargas








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