Transition Time: Konduros wants to take SCBIO to next levelApr 01, 2017 02:56PM ● By Makayla Gay
By John McCurry
New SCBIO president and CEO Sam Konduros believes life sciences can be a major economic engine for the state, much like automotives or aerospace. The sector offers great potential for the state to further diversify its industrial base.
Konduros, a biomedical and economic development consultant, founded SK Strategies in 2004, and most recently served as executive director of Greenville Health System’s Research Development Corp. from 2014 to 2016. His career also includes stints as senior development counsel for Clemson University and as the first CEO of the Upstate South Carolina Alliance. He is also a member of SCBIO’s board.
Konduros succeeds Wayne Roper, SCBIO’s first CEO, who decided a few months ago to step down.
“It really feels like I am taking on a mission, not a job, and that’s what I love,” Konduros says of his new position. “It’s a unique opportunity to continue my passion for economic development….We want to connect South Carolina with the life sciences industry around the globe, and leverage the intellectual capital we have here.”
Konduros added that he’s excited to be able to serve as CEO of a statewide organization and represent all of the state’s life sciences companies. The main agenda of SCBIO will be to serve as a catalyst to develop life sciences in South Carolina, much like what has been done for the automotive sector.
The S.C. Dept. of Commerce will formally welcome Konduros on April 20, prior to his first day on the job on April 24. His tenure starts off “with a bang,” as he will quickly begin a three-month gauntlet of state, regional, and national trade shows and meetings. This will begin with the Southeastern Medical Device Association conference in Atlanta his first week and continues through to the massive BIO International event in San Diego in June.
“South Carolina has all the ingredients to succeed in a big way,” Konduros said. “It made enormous strides while I was serving at GHS. I have been heard to say in a few speeches, jokingly, that if you look back 10 to 15 years, South Carolina has been considered a valley of humility between Research Triangle Park and Atlanta-Georgia Tech-Emory. The truth is we have a great story to tell. We have built a big hill, and are holding our own and are excited to make that quantum leap.”
Konduros praised the job Roper has done in getting SCBIO up and running.
“Wayne did an incredible job of ground work to get the organization where it is and create a voice for the industry in the state. The annual conference has become a highlight in this state, and anyone serious about the industry makes an effort to be there. I had the pleasure of being on a panel at the annual conference this past year and really felt all of that. This is a winning strategy that we will continue to build on and will continue to move around the state.”
In a recent interview, Roper told Greenville Business Magazine that after six years at SCBIO’s helm, it was time for him and the organization to transition. A former newspaperman who served as former U.S. Rep. Bob Inglis’ chief of staff for five years prior to becoming SCBIO’s first president and CEO, Roper says he has “run hard” for six years as a one-man organization and he’s ready to seek a new challenge, which he hopes will be in life sciences.
“The question in 2011 was how big of a community do we have here and what can we have if we try to provide value, resources, and networking opportunities,” Roper recalled. “We didn’t know then what we would find.”
What they found in 2011, Roper said, were lots of assets such as research universities and SC Launch, which was helping form a lot of seed and early-stage companies, but that the state wasn’t getting much “economic bang for the buck” and there wasn’t much focus on the industry’s economic potential.
“They were having to find resources on their own, regulatory people on their own, and there was no way to bring folks together to talk about how to get a life sciences company going and how to do it,” Roper recalls. “That’s what SCBIO started doing.”
During SCBIO’s first year, membership grew to 47 companies. That was supported by great response from the state’s research universities and gradually, the industry grew. SCBIO now has nearly 100 members. It also produces an annual conference that attracts industry experts and draws around 300 attendees. SCBIO’s QuickStart program helps early-stage companies.
Erin Ford, chair of SCBIO’s board and director of sales at Anderson-based Poly-Med, said Konduros will build on the foundation laid by Roper and SCBIO’s board over the past six years. She feels the organization has reached an exciting time to move to the next level.
“We [SCBIO] will be involved in economic development and industry recruitment, working with the Dept. of Commerce and regional alliances to share the story of why South Carolina is a great place to do business in life sciences.”
Craig Walker, SCBIO’s vice chair and CEO of VidiStar in Greenville, praised Roper for his efforts to raise the industry’s profile and forge a strong relationship with the S.C. Dept. of Commerce.
“Wayne leaves some big shoes to fill,” Walker said.
Ford said SCBIO’s long-range plans include expanding the organization’s staff and securing office space in Columbia. SCBIO to date has had just one employee. She hopes membership, currently just under 100, will grow to 150 by year’s end and then reach 200 within another year.
“Our long-term vision of to grow the organization with more membership and more programs and we will need further support,” Ford said.