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Innovating the business of life science to solve some of the world’s biggest problems
CEO and Founder Jeff Aronin is leading Paragon Biosciences’ unique approach to curing diseases, feeding the world, and fighting climate change.
Since its founding in 2017, Paragon Biosciences has set its sights on solving a range of complex human problems. Using cutting-edge cell and gene therapy science, adaptive biology, and advanced biotechnology, Paragon’s portfolio companies are further developing and applying science and technology that can lead to life-changing breakthroughs. Among other ambitions, these teams are working to remove carbon from the atmosphere, increase the nutritional value of food, and cure blindness.
Jeff Aronin, Paragon’s founder, chairman, and CEO, says the company can tackle so many diverse challenges simultaneously because of its unique approach to business and development, as well as the unexplored potential of science and technology. Founded on attracting visionaries from the scientific community around the world to its own labs, Paragon creates, invests in, and builds independent companies across a range of technologies. To date, Evozyne, CiRC Biosciences, Castle Creek Biosciences, and Qlarity Imaging are among its seven portfolio companies.
We spoke with Aronin about his innovative approach to addressing some of the world’s most complex yet urgent challenges, and why it’s such an exciting time for life sciences.
How is Paragon Biosciences able to address such diverse global challenges?
Biosciences have evolved over the past several decades to a point where we not only can address and solve some of the biggest challenges we face in health care, but in other areas, as well, including climate change, energy, and industrial manufacturing. That has been our mission since the very beginning.
Big companies, whether pharma or the tech giants, aren’t nimble enough to drive pioneering work. They don’t have the long-term focus. And small companies don’t have the resources. We offer a new model that has both—plus we can create practical change out of the incredible scientific advancements we’re developing. Today, we have seven companies doing just that, including a company that went public last year and others that have raised millions of dollars over the past year.
How is Paragon unique in its field?
We identify unmet needs first. That is unique. Take health care, for example. So many companies start with, “We are a company that treats Alzheimer’s, so if we find something in our lab, the next step is ‘Okay, let’s try it on Alzheimer’s.’” Paragon starts with “What is the need?” and then we look at our own labs and university labs to see if we have a pathway to develop proof of concept to solve that problem.
We also ask different questions. When it comes to carbon capture, for example, we ask, “and then what?” Now our goal is to turn carbon into usable products like replacements for plastics. In the end, we look at how to respond to the challenges society faces from a vastly different perspective than others do.
Can you provide a few examples of advancements developed by Paragon companies?
Among many goals, Evozyne is optimizing protein design to create novel therapeutics and evolve the development of lithium air batteries, which could expand the use of electric cars and, in turn, contribute to a cleaner world. In health care, CiRC Biosciences is focusing on diseases that have no treatments—in one case investigating technology that transforms ordinary skin cells into specialized retinal cells using a cocktail of small molecules, which has the potential to restore vision in people with retinitis pigmentosa, dry age-related macular degeneration, and other retinal diseases.
There’s also Castle Creek Biosciences, which is developing a gene therapy for rare genetic disorders such as a debilitating skin disease called epidermolysis bullosa. Meanwhile, Qlarity Imaging has developed A.I.–driven software that significantly improves the accuracy and detection of breast abnormalities using its QuantX software.
What makes you excited for the future?
The younger generations want to solve big problems. It’s more important to them than anything else. That is so motivating to me and everyone we work with. Given the advancements we’ve had in biology, combined with computational science and physics, we are going to accomplish things that used to be unthinkable. It’s an amazing time to be doing what we’re doing.