Bethyl Laboratories CEO John Carwile, MD visits us in the studio to discuss the manufacturing process of antibodies.
Please excuse any typos in this hasty transcript.
Jay Curry: And we’re back. Hello Texas. Welcome to Texas Business Radio. Wow, we’re talking medical and we’re having fun. And this segment is going to be very interesting, some very sophisticated stuff going on by a fabulous firm here in Texas. Before we get started, let me remind everybody. Texasbusinessradio.com. That’s the website. Everything’s there. It’s all in video. It’s all in high definition. It’s great stuff. All of our guests, all of our hosts, everything, texasbusinessradio.com. Now of course, if you like to Twitter, you can hashtag TBR. That’s hashtag TBR, as in Texas Business Radio. And we have our famous red hotline phone, 24 hours a day, you can call in. 844-814-8144. If you didn’t write that down, don’t worry about it. It’s at texasbusinessradio.com. But you can call 24 hours a day. We will get the answers. We’ll get the experts. We’ll get them on the air for you, and we’ll take care of that issue. Glad to do it 24 hours a day. Let’s get started. We’re going to have some fun in this segment. I have in the studio with me, John Carwile, who’s the CEO of Bethyl Laboratories. Wow. I can’t wait to hear about this, John. Thank you for joining us.
John Carwile: You bet, Jay. Thanks for having me.
Jay Curry: This is going to be fun. What is Bethyl Laboratories?
John Carwile: Bethyl’s an antibody manufacturing company. We’re one of the world’s largest and oldest primary antibody manufacturers. We don’t sell anything that we don’t manufacture completely in house. And we support the research and diagnostic markets.
Jay Curry: Okay. When you talk about antibodies, what are you doing? What’s this really all about?
John Carwile: Antibodies are essentially proteins that are engineered to detect other proteins. And so these are very much kind of lock and key. They’re very highly specific, and so if an investigator at Baylor, MD Anderson, Dana-Farber, one of the major cancer institutes, wants to study a particular protein, they can look for an antibody that will detect that protein. And that’s what we do. And we have a portfolio of over nearly 20,000 different stock keeping units, and again, all manufactured onsite. And we control the complete antibody life cycle.
Jay Curry: And you have an inventory, so it’s not like they call, and you have to go create. They can take an order, and you can send it to them.
John Carwile: Yes. Anything, if it’s listed on our site, then we have it in inventory, except for the small percentage of products that might be on back order because they’re either hot sellers or something like that. But it’s not like we have to send out for someone else, bring it in, and then ship it out.
Jay Curry: So you just don’t go in the laboratory and make these. There’s a lot of work that goes into it.
John Carwile: No, no, no. It takes in order … A project from start to finish can take six months to a year, if it works at all. But yes, we have a lot of catalog products that someone can just order off the shelf. But we also do offer custom and contract services, so if it’s not on our site, and it’s a particular hot protein that needs to be studied by a pharmaceutical company or something like that, we have a team of very experienced PhD scientists that will work with that investigator to generate a fit for purpose reagent specifically for them.
Jay Curry: This sounds to me like what you’re doing is facilitating the researchers that are finding the solutions in our medical system. Right?
John Carwile: Exactly. In fact, our tagline, or our purpose, is to improve lives by supporting scientific discovery, exactly what we do.
Jay Curry: Wow. And are you reinventing all the time? Or do you get requests and you have to go figure it out? It’s just a set number and you’ve got them in inventory.
John Carwile: It’s a combination.
Jay Curry: But you’ve got heavy researchers. Right?
John Carwile: We do. And it’s a combination, so a lot of targets that will go after will be things that we’ve read about in the literature, or hot particular targets that we need antibodies to. Or we’ll have a colleague or a collaborator at one of the major institutions or pharmaceutical company, for example, call us and say, “Hey, we can’t find this. Can you do it for us?” And those are very valuable collaborations as well.
Jay Curry: There’s a lot of research. I mean, this is a miracle industry right now. There are problems that are being solved every year. Just amazing. But I’ve got to think a lot of it’s around cancer.
John Carwile: Yeah. Right now in cancer research and cancer therapies, the immune checkpoint inhibitors, drugs you see them advertised on TV all the time, have really revolutionized cancer care, and will continue to revolutionize cancer care in the coming decade. Now it may turn out that it ends up bankrupting the country because these things are so expensive.
Jay Curry: Yes.
John Carwile: However, at Bethyl we believe that we’re really excited about a whole line of antibodies that are specific for these immune checkpoint inhibitors and for other immune related cells that would be infiltrating a cancer. And one of the things that we’ve worked on recently, and that we’re really excited about is the opportunity to take these custom built recombinant antibodies and put them in a multiplexed assay, meaning on a single slide of a cancer tissue for example.
Jay Curry: All right. That’s been taken out of a patient.
John Carwile: That’s been taken out of a patient. For example, if there’s a nodule in your lung, or a nodule in the breast, and the doctor does a fine needle aspiration, or a core needle biopsy, you have a limited amount of tissue.
Jay Curry: Right. Very limited.
John Carwile: Very limited amount of tissue, and if you want to understand what markers are on that tumor or in that tumor, then a pathologist would have to do a single slide cut, for example, for each one of those, stain that with an antibody, which would consume a great deal of tissue. One of the things that we’re working on now is generating reagents and the opportunity to do multiple stains for multiple targets on a single slide, basically called multiplexed immunohistochemistry. And we think that ultimately is going to really revolutionize the pathological diagnosis of cancer.
Jay Curry: It sounds like that would save time and money and be more efficient, so you can do multiples on one slide. And that’s not normal. That’s new stuff you’re working on.
John Carwile: And that’s relatively new. There are other methods out there and other companies that are working on that as well. But again, even more than the time saving is the opportunity to really understand the makeup of the tumor, of the immune cells that are associated with the tumor. And that’ll help define what patients are going to respond to certain chemotherapies, and equally as important, what patients are not going to respond to certain therapies. I was just at a conference in Boston a week or two ago that really highlighted the advances in immune oncology. But again, the importance of the reagents and the methods for the diagnosis, and really get to that personalized medicine.
Jay Curry: Let me see if I can say this back to you in a simple term that I can understand. The patient gets, say, cancer of some sort. They go in and they take a slice, a very small slice. They bring it into the research or to the laboratory. And then they use your antibodies to test it to find out what types of cells and proteins are in there. Is that what you’re saying?
John Carwile: They could use one of our antibodies. Oftentimes now in what are the currently available ones that are in the lab are not using Bethyl antibodies. But researcher who would be studying, say, those tissues as part of a large tissue banks or whatever, would definitely be using some of Bethyl’s antibodies.
Jay Curry: So you have to be … You’re chasing researchers. You’re probably well known. Probably don’t have to chase anybody, just take orders. What a very, very interesting story.
John Carwile: Thank you.
Jay Curry: What’s going on right now? What are you working on right now that’s kind of unique?
John Carwile: Well, like I said, the multiplexed immunohistochemistry is probably the most cutting edge type things that we’re developing. And in that process, we’re using only recombinant-ly produced antibodies, so these are full length antibodies grown in cell culture.
Jay Curry: That’s unbelievable. You also mentioned your value proposition, which I thought was pretty unique. Can you give that to us?
John Carwile: Well, the main thing that differentiates Bethyl from a lot of the antibody resellers in the market is that we’re not a reseller. We’re a primary manufacturer. We control the entire antibody life cycle, from the design of the antigens, which would be used to raise the antibody, the purification, the validation, all the way to putting it in the vial and shipping it out the door.
Jay Curry: From the beginning to the end.
John Carwile: Correct.
Jay Curry: Great story. Bethyl Laboratories Inc. Right?
John Carwile: Yes, sir.
Jay Curry: Bethyl Laboratories Inc. If somebody wanted to just research you and find out more about what you’re doing, what would they do?
John Carwile: Bethyl.com is probably the best resource. We have a very robust website.
Jay Curry: Very robust, so there you’ve got, folks, Bethyl.
John Carwile: Bethyl.com.
Jay Curry: Dot com, just bethyl.com. No laboratories.
John Carwile: B-E-T-H-Y-L.com.
Jay Curry: We’re going to put that on Texas Business Radio, folks, so if you forget about it, you can go there and it’ll be there for you.
John Carwile: Great.
Jay Curry: Wow, John. Thank you so much. What a very interesting story, fabulous. Thank you for the hard work you’re doing.
John Carwile: Sure. It’s exciting.
Jay Curry: In the American health system that’s saving lives, it’s exciting.
John Carwile: Great. Thank you very much, Jay, for having me.
Jay Curry: All right, folks. We have to pay a couple bills, so we’re going to sign off for just a minute. Don’t go anywhere. This is Jay Curry. We’ll be right back.
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Jay W. Curry
Along with hosting “Texas Business Radio”, Jay is a Professional Certified Coach and Master Chair facilitating four Houston-based Vistage peer groups. In addition to being a best selling non-fiction author, the 2015 release of his award winning novel, Nixon and Dovey: the Legend Returns, adds novelist to his title. Jay holds a BS in Mathematics from Oklahoma State and an MS in Computer Science from Kansas State. You can learn more about Jay HERE.