HOUSTON INNOVATORS PODCAST EPISODE 82
The pandemic hit life science innovation hard. And no one knows that better than Kevin Coker, co-founder and CEO of Proxima Clinical Research, a Houston-based contract research organization focused on supporting life science startups as they grow and scale.
"Last year from January to June, it was very tough," Coker says on this week's episode of the Houston Innovators Podcast. "Hospitals shut down, so any existing projects we had ongoing just halted."
Coker and his team of 12 — including co-founder and chairman, Larry Lawson — at the time didn't have any new projects coming in and were at the mercy of the pandemic.
"Everything was flat. In May, I was starting to worry. I didn't know how long we were going to have to weather the storm," Coker remembers.
Then, in June, things started changing, he says. As hospitals started to reopen and clinical research was reignited. Initially, some COVID diagnostic products were gaining momentum, as well as some emergency use authorization products.
"Things just really started taking off for us," Coker says. "I think it was really a product of investors and people being able to make decisions despite the pandemic."
Coker describes the experience not as a rollercoaster — it was all downhill for Proxima and then business took flight. Last quarter, the company was signing a new contract every two to three days. With the influx of projects, Coker says his team scaled to 50 full time employees and 75 part time team members — most of these new additions Coker hasn't even met yet, since the staff has been working remotely.
"We're a good barometer for what's happening not only locally but across the country," Coker says. "As Proxima has grown, it's really show how the Houston life science market is growing."
Now, Coker is focused on maintaining the company culture at Proxima as well as finding a new, larger office space in the Texas Medical Center — Proxima's current office is in the TMC Innovation Institute.
Coker says it's his intention to keep its operations smaller and more hands on than the usual CRO, which typically has 5,000 to 10,000 employees and multi-billion dollars in revenue, and focused on startups and small companies.
"That type of organization doesn't work well with a small med device or pharmaceutical company. We wanted to create a company that looked and felt like the startups," he says.
Coker shares more about Proxima's growth and Houston's potential of being a major life science hub on the episode. Listen to the full interview below — or wherever you stream your podcasts — and subscribe for weekly episodes.