What you’ll learn:
The Coronavirus is at the center of the news cycle. If you do business in China, you’re probably wondering if you are taking the right precautionary measures to protect this SARS like virus from affecting your supply chain management (SCM) and overall production. But what is the coronavirus? What is the infection caused by? How was it transmitted to humans? Is there a treatment or vaccine? We answer all these questions and more in today’s episode—just in time to help you navigate upcoming travel to the China Canton Fair 2020 and other Q1 tradeshows.
About our guest:
Virapur was formed in 2000 based on Marylou Gibson’s invention of the adenovirus purification kit, which has now revolutionized how viruses are purified by researchers worldwide. Marylou Gibson is a Virologist and Chief Scientific Officer at Virapur. Virapur grows and purifies many different influenza viruses, including H1N1, H3N2, and swine flu, using eggs and tissue culture. Gibson’s experience has been gained over the past 25 years in production and purification of biopharmaceuticals. Her Ph.D. degree is in virology, so making viraceuticals was the next a logical step in her career.
Key takeaways from this episode:
- What is the coronavirus and how was it transmitted from animals to humans? –4:41
- Is a virus a living organism?
- How is the coronavirus like SARS?
- The #1 way of avoiding the coronavirus
- How far and how does coronavirus travel in the air?
- Travel Tips: best precautions to take when traveling on an airplane
- Face mask pros and cons: are effective at preventing transmission?
- How China is mobilizing to protect worldwide spread to other countries
- Cause of illness in coronavirus patients
- Long-term effects
- Shocking unknown fact about coronavirus and cold symptoms
- A Virologist’s advice on vaccines
Announcer: Welcome to the Page 1 Podcast, a weekly podcast featuring a variety of guests and thought leaders on topics ranging from channel strategies, to tariffs, influencer marketing, best in class product launches, and all the details about how to accelerate your eCommerce sales with the big box retailers, or what we call rCommerce. Now here’s your host, Luke Peters.
Luke Peters: Thanks for joining us on the Page 1 Podcast. This is the podcast where I generally interview consumer product specialists and leaders in the industry, but today we have a special episode with Dr. Marylou Gibson who is a Virologist and Chief Scientific Officer at VIRAPUR and we’ll learn more about that later on. I thought it’s really timely for you, listeners, and audience here on the Page 1 podcast to understand the challenges of travel right now. With the recent coronavirus outbreak. Interestingly, I have a little bit of background in that, just enough to be dangerous. I have a bachelors in microbiology and studied just all the fields that are involved in that in microbiology, like parasitology and bacteriology and then chemistry minor. Anyways, along the way I worked as a hazardous waste scientist before I started NewAir.
Luke Peters: So, I thought when this outbreak happened, looking at our industry, the housewares, the home and hardware industry. For all of you listeners out there who might be traveling to China or even worried about your supply chain, I just thought talking about the Coronavirus would be fascinating, but also really important to business. Just admittedly today we’re looking in contacting suppliers as the Chinese New Year wines up or wines down and wondering, are they all going to be open for business? Are they going to have the labor force to continue production? So, today we’ll dive into some of those questions. As I interview Dr. Marylou Gibson, she’s an expert in this field, but what is also unique about Dr. Marylou Gibson is that she is an entrepreneur as well.
Luke Peters: She just sold the business that she started in the year of 2000 and we’ll get back into that. So, Dr. Gibson is an expert virologist trained in virus growth, diagnostics and vaccines. She received her PhD and postdoctoral training from The University of Illinois and The University of Chicago, and she has worked as a scientist for several Fortune 500 companies during their career. Marylou is an entrepreneur, formed VIRAPUR, a contract research lab providing services to the virus industry and recently sold the business to Microbiologics. Dr. Gibson, I fumbled a few of these complex words here, but I’m thrilled to have you on the podcast and I think I’m looking forward to an interesting conversation here.
Marylou Gibson: Well, thank you Luke. I’m very happy to help people understand what’s going on with this Coronavirus epidemic that looks like it’s turning into a pandemic as we speak today on January 31st. Things are moving very, very quickly with this new coronavirus outbreak. In seven days, the infected population has grown tenfold and certainly will grow larger within China and possibly outside of China.
Luke Peters: Yeah. Well, that’s a perfect segue. I guess for our listeners we’re going to dive … I’ll have a series of questions here for Dr. Gibson about the virus but also about travel. We have the International Housewares Show coming up, the Home + Hardware Show coming up, the Canton Fair in Southern China, which most of us will travel to once or twice a year. So, all of this travel is happening in Q1, it’s trade show season. Besides the coronavirus, let’s talk about travel in general as well. So, I thought, overall, I want to provide a really useful and actionable set of information here for the listeners.
Luke Peters: Dr. Gibson, as mentioned, is such an expert in this area but also an entrepreneur. So, at the very end of the episode, if you guys can manage to go through all the science here at the beginning, we will talk about her business, what it does and a little bit about the sale and what she’s looking to do in the future. I thought that would be cool as well because there aren’t a lot of female entrepreneurs in the science fields. This is a pretty unique opportunity for me to interview somebody who’s accomplished so much. Dr. Gibson, let’s start with the Coronavirus details. What is unique about it and what is known at this point?
Marylou Gibson: Sure. Well, coronavirus is one of probably five or six different common cold viruses. They’re really quite different from each other. We’re all familiar with influenza, which is not one of the common cold viruses, but those that are common cold viruses, maybe you’ve heard Rhino virus or RSV, which stands for respiratory syncytial virus and there’s a few others, and they’re all quite genetically different. Corona is one of these common cold viruses which belonged to a family of viruses, the coronas, that infect all sorts of animals on this planet. There is about 50 viruses that we have full genomic sequence for where they’ve sequenced the actual virus nucleic acid. They range from infecting animals as wide from beluga whales, to rats, to pigs, to turkeys. There are about six or seven viruses now that infect humans in this family of the coronaviruses.
Marylou Gibson: They’re unique in the sense that well, they have an envelope which makes them a little bit easier to inactivate if we want to kill them. There’s no antiviral drug at this point that is directed to the coronaviruses. That’s unlike influenza where we have several antiviral drugs now. We haven’t developed any antiviral … Well, there are drugs in development but they’re not for sale to the population yet. They do have the ability to mutate and change and enter different animal populations as they mutate. That’s possibly what has happened in this instance where the virus, which was potentially in a bat population somehow just genetically mutated. Mutation is a common thing that happens with these viruses.
Marylou Gibson: When a change happens by chance that then allows that virus to now be more infectious to humans, and if bats get really close to humans for some reason or another, like in the animal market in Hunan, then that virus has the opportunity to jump into a new population. These viruses are all about just replicating themselves and making more of themselves. Like the old adage, selfish DNA. DNA just wants to make more of itself and viruses they’re like that. They’re selfish RNA. These coronavirus is an RNA virus. Its material is RNA.
Luke Peters: We’ll get a little bit into the weeds here for the audience, but hopefully it’s … this part’s interesting, and again at the very end we’ll talk about Dr. Gibson’s business if some of this is too much and you guys want to forward through. But Dr. Gibson, when I was in school, a virus was not considered a living organism because it couldn’t reproduce itself. Is that still kind of the case today? Also, does this virus actually have RNA in it or it just uses a host RNA to replicate?
Marylou Gibson: Well, to answer your first question, are viruses living? I think there’s still differences of opinion between scientist one and scientist two. But I mean, in the sense that they can propagate themselves and they have a strong force to propagate. I consider them some sort of a living organism. Living organisms sometimes are considered those that have all of the enzymatic systems and all of the systems to propagate themselves, but viruses have to rely on the cell that they infect for a lot of their replication and amplification business that they have to go through. Viruses don’t usually have all of the critical components to replicate themselves. They rely on something else. Therein, lies this living-nonliving discussion. Being a virologist, I think they’re very powerful entities and I’m glad I spent my entire career studying them.
Luke Peters: Yeah, it’s so interesting.
Marylou Gibson: These viruses actually do, in case their own RNA genome, so to speak. Well, it is called the genome. Coronaviruses have 29,000 linear stretch of RNA. Within that linear stretch is a lot of information that the virus uses to get into the host cell and to replicate its own RNA and to then make tens of thousands more copies of virus and then blow out of that host cell and infect additional cells. So, the virus does hold its own information in that 29,000 stretch of basis that it needs to propagate itself and to mutate itself.
Luke Peters: Yeah. Does that mean then that UV light does disable virus because it could alternate the RNA structure just like it would a DNA structure? Is that still work for disabling, like say …?
Marylou Gibson: That is correct. You can inactivate this virus in particular. Well, they’ve shown that the SARS virus, which is very related to this virus, genetically. The SARS virus can be UV inactivated. Even exposure to UV light in the sunshine will inactivate this virus probably within minutes, less than hour.
Luke Peters: Yeah, which is really important. Just because, and again, I’ll jump around a little bit and I’m trying to think of like what’s important for the listener here and we’ll jump into hygiene. I ask that question just because from what I remember, desiccation was like the best way to kill bacteria in that case. It’s like, wash our hands and everything, but when things dry out, they die. Do you think air purification is …? You guys probably have clean rooms in your lab, I’m assuming. Does HEPA air purification with UV, is that enough to capture virus particles or are they too small?
Marylou Gibson: Virus particles should be captured. This virus is a very small virus in the realm of how big viruses are. So, it’s pretty small but it should be captured by a HEPA filters. They haven’t tested this virus in particular yet for whether it passes through certain size filters, but HEPA filters are designed to capture very, very small particles and also some charged particles. So HEPA filters, in my opinion, should be useful to remove some of the particles that would be in an environment. Pretty much speaking, I think if you want to avoid this virus, you probably shouldn’t be in enclosed space with people who are potentially infectious or in a space that has recycled air. The goal would be to be in wide-open spaces or places with good air that is passed through and then exhausted to the environment. You don’t want recycled air.
Luke Peters: Yeah. On that question, let’s jump into some travel suggestions. This doesn’t have to just be focused on the coronavirus, this is on any virus as people are trying to avoid getting sick. A couple of questions about that. How should people think about protecting themselves, say on a plane or crowded trade shows? Because the trade shows we go to, I think in the Housewares show in Chicago, there’s probably 60,000 people. And you’re in a big ventilated room, it’s high ceilings, you’re shaking hands all day. Then on a plane, obviously people are flying back and forth. The first question here is because is like when somebody coughs or sneezes and they’re sick with anything, does that create a cloud of smoke? If somebody’s exhaling a cigarette, is it the same idea where like the smoke lingers in the air, and is there a radius of infectiveness?
Marylou Gibson: Yeah, there is. There has been studies that study how far a cough projects. Pretty much a cough can project droplets up to two yards, six feet, two meters. There’s about a whole gallon of your air that is thrust out when an adult person coughs, so there’s a gallon volume of air. In that cough, there’s a lot of different droplets sizes. Because when you cough, you don’t just make one droplet size, you make a whole bunch of different sizes. Big, sometimes you can see stuff that comes out of people’s mouth if you’re in the right light. There’s larger droplets that are way bigger than a virus, the actual liquid drops within. Then there’s teeny, tiny little droplets too and there’s a whole range of volume. In those droplets can be liquid and also virus.
Marylou Gibson: Some of these droplets can impact the surface, like stick to the wall if you’re close to a wall. Some are so heavy that they fall by gravity and some are so small that they stay suspended in the air for hours potentially. Especially if there’s virus in there and it dries, it can be suspended in the air for hours. For a matter of fact, this is how measles spread so quickly because the virus is suspended in teeny droplets and hours later in a room, somebody could come in and get infected with measles.
Luke Peters: Yeah. So, even though it’s two yards or six feet for a cough, but if it’s suspended or if the air system’s moving that air around in a plane, does it mean probably you’re more likely to get sick if you’re closer to the person, but even if you’re, say 10 rows back, there’s a chance I guess because …?
Marylou Gibson: Right. Well, that’s true. Ideally, you want to stay out of small enclosed spaces. I’ve had friends in the last month on planes that have gotten sick from their seatmates. You want a place that has adequate ventilation and not circulating air. I don’t know if they recirculate air in planes, I don’t really know, but ideally you wouldn’t want the air to be recirculated. The other thing about this virus, and I’m presupposing things on this novel coronavirus, that they’ve discovered or showed with SARS, which is a very close family member to this new virus, is that this virus can remain viable on surfaces for up to four days. It can dry on a surface and still be viable on that surface. Viable I mean alive. If you took your hand and touch and picked up a load of that from a surface and rubbed your eye or stuck it in your mouth, you could potentially become ill.
Marylou Gibson: It all depends on how much virus is in that droplet that you touch and how much of it actually gets in your eye and whatnot. But they haven’t done full studies on how many virus particles are actually required to be infectious with this new coronavirus, but infection depends on the viral load that you actually infect yourself with.
Luke Peters: Sorry, excuse me. This one has a cell membrane, like a lipid membrane? Like you said, there’s an …
Marylou Gibson: A lipid membrane. Yeah.
Luke Peters: Oh, that’s interesting.
Marylou Gibson: There’s two kinds of viruses in the world that we work with. There are viruses like this that actually bugged through the membrane of the cell and pick up some of the membrane. It’s a unique mechanism that these viruses have, that they utilize the cells so much that they look like a cell, but they insert their own proteins and business into this membrane. But that’s the bad part about it, but the good part about it is since they’re surrounded by this lipid or fat membrane, that they’re sensitive to an activation with organic solvents like alcohol, PURELL type hand sanitizers. Certainly soap and water is your first go to for anything. So, if you can wash your hands frequently with warm water and soap, that’s great too.
Luke Peters: Got it. Yeah, that’s so interesting how virus … You’ve spent your whole career on it, but I just find it fascinating. How about supplements? There’s so many on the market, but just common supplements that you hear for improving immune response or keeping people from getting sick, like Vitamin C, Zinc, Echinacea there’s others. I think vitamin C had something to do with … geez, I don’t even actually don’t remember the mode, but it was something where it prevented cold viruses from penetrating cells or supposedly that’s what I read about it. But do you think there’s any efficacy or proven results on these types of things and should travelers even consider these?
Marylou Gibson: It’s not my thing. I’m not a big proponent of supplements. I think if you feel it’s going to help you, that’s fine, but I don’t have any recommendation for supplements. I also think, keep yourself hydrated well especially on an airplane, keep your membranes, your mouth hydrated. I think hydration has something to do with susceptibility as well, but I can’t really say anything about supplements.
Luke Peters: Okay. No problem. That is interesting about hydration. Dr. Gibson, just wrapping up this, as far as the traveling section goes, it sounds like you’re more likely to catch this from breathing it in, than you are touching it from the surface. I’m just extrapolating that. Would that be correct?
Marylou Gibson: Right. Well, I think you’re in control of touching. You’re in control of what you touch and what you put in your eyes or your nose or your mouth. But you may not be so in control of what you breathe. Try to stay clear of people that are obviously coughing. The question is whether wearing a mask is going to help you or not. Masks are designed really to help the person that’s infected from coughing on you. So, it’s the infected person who should be wearing the mask, but a mask does offer a small degree of potential protection from large droplets that might be projected towards you. Another thing that I would wear in a situation that’s dangerous or sketchy is I would wear glasses.
Marylou Gibson: If somebody is coughing, if they coughed something directly at you, the glasses protect that from hitting your eye without … you can do something about it. I was just listening to a YouTube video of a young teacher, Irish teacher in Hunan who was going to the grocery store and he wore his swim goggles to protect his eyes. I thought that’s brilliant that he’s thinking through this thing because viruses can enter through the mucus membrane of your eye.
Luke Peters: Yeah. It’s super interesting to think that way and also just for people to understand all the ways a virus can get in. So it’s not just breathing it in. Also, just like you talked about the mask could have some benefit. It’s mostly for those who are sick. I always just think air and water, they always take path of least resistance, and it’s hard to get a perfect seal on your face. So like when you’re breathing air in, I’m guessing a high percentage of that air is just coming through cracks on the side of the mask.
Marylou Gibson: Right, and most of the masks that people wear that you see on the street in China, I don’t believe are the very high pore … they should be N95 which, which has a certain pore size and are designed not to let most viruses through. I’m sure they’re just fabric masks or something like that. They’ll protect a certain size of droplet but not very small droplets or not very small dried particles from coming through.
Luke Peters: Great. Let’s dive into what we know directly about the coronavirus. I know it changes daily. So I was like looking at it this morning and there’s I think over 10,000 cases that are at least being reported and then a little bit over 200 deaths. It’s hard I guess to get a mortality rate, or is there anything you can extrapolate where this virus is going compared to say the influenza virus?
Marylou Gibson: Well, things are changing daily. So if someone listens today, it’ll be at about 10,000. Tomorrow, it could be well higher than that. The mortality rate that they’re calculating right now is about 2% to 3% of the people effected, but these data lag from the number of infected people that they’re reporting may not be the full number of people that actually are infected because everybody’s not sick in the same intensity. There’s people that are super duper sick, that can’t breathe and have a respiratory distress syndrome. Those are probably the hospitalized people. But then on the other side of this virus spectrum, there are people that maybe just have the sniffles and are barely bothered by this infection.
Marylou Gibson: Those probably are not counted in this full number of folks that are being reported right now. The other issue this early in this, it’s really not an epidemic anymore. I think it’s turning into a pandemic. Another thing that is true, is I don’t think that the diagnostic laboratories can keep up with all these folks that are potentially presenting being infected. So there’s quite likely a lot of under-reporting of people that are affected because they’re not really diagnosed yet, and they probably will never diagnosed the people that just have the sniffles from this.
Luke Peters: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense.
Marylou Gibson: Right. Just yesterday, the World Health Organization decided to make this a more serious threat and they feel that the virus infection is a threat beyond just China. They’ve made a move to heighten their response to the outbreak worldwide because they’re worried that lesser equipped countries won’t be able to respond in the same fashion that China has. China is responding, I think in a very amazing and thorough way. The world health leaders said that there’s never in history been this sort of mobilization in China as they see with this virus. It’s costing China a lot of money to shut down this entire area to … it’s really a significant mobilization that they have put into effect and it is protecting the world really, what China’s doing is serving to protect the world because the people that potentially are infected aren’t being allowed, or at least most of them, aren’t being allowed to circulate to other regions or other countries.
Luke Peters: Yeah. They’re building hospitals in like 12 days. It’s incredible.
Marylou Gibson: That’s right.
Luke Peters: I guess, part of the skeptic in me is always thinking, whoa, it is an amazing like quick turn of events that China has been able to do, and like you said, the way they’ve mobilized, but part of the skeptic in me was thinking, well, maybe they know something we don’t about how virulent or dangerous this virus could be, but the numbers are coming out. It is dangerous, but it’s not like it’s 50%.
Marylou Gibson: The health infrastructure of the globe is aware of things like this that can happen. China has record of doing a very similar thing for stars in the early two thousands where they did build a hospital in short order, which now has been abandoned. But essentially, what it is, is a whole bunch of military barrack style buildings I think that are not designed for longterm use, but they want to use it to assist the population and treat the population and isolate some people. China is known to be able to turn construction projects around very, very quickly. So I’m not surprised.
Luke Peters: I’ve seen it firsthand. Yeah, they can do things that most other countries can’t for some obvious reasons. Yeah. Dr. Gibson, a quick question on how people are dying from viruses, from any virus, but maybe from this one if you know more specifically, but when people die, is it because of the actual virus that it somehow it causes so much cell death that there’s certain issues with certain organs or is it usually a secondary infection like a bacterial infection, like a pneumonia that comes in because of a weakened immune response or some other cause?
Marylou Gibson: I don’t know medically exactly, but what I understand is happening is that these folks are getting acute respiratory distress syndrome. Their lungs are reacting to infection to this pneumonia. They’re getting inflamed and they can’t take the oxygen out of the air adequately, so they are often put on respirators. They just have a lot of the issues of getting good oxygen transfer through their lungs. Ultimately, that’s the cause of death as I understand it, but I’m not a medical doctor either.
Luke Peters: Yeah.
Marylou Gibson: Some very well may be coming down with secondary bacterial infections, but I don’t know really the course of the disease. That’ll come out in the next few weeks I think, more information on that, because the Chinese have been very forthright with information. Those infections that we’ve had in Western countries luckily have not led to any fatalities yet, so we can’t really map things out exactly.
Luke Peters: Yeah, which is good news. So we can hold on to that. But like you said, it updates daily. We’ll keep this, once this podcast launches, we’ll update some numbers to that day because every day things are moving up 50% in some cases and changing rapidly. Do viruses like this or even other viruses, just because I remember just from my studies that some of them can cause cancer later in life. Not to be alarming, I’m asking this question more from just a curiosity standpoint because I think it’s so interesting on how viruses can cause mutations and changes in their host. Do viruses have any long-term effects on people? I guess, we can talk about the typical cold and flu viruses. What’s known in the science community?
Marylou Gibson: That’s a really a deep question. Any virologists listening will understand how I have trouble exactly giving you an answer to that. But on the whole, the RNA viruses, which corona is one, influenza is another, they usually don’t have any long term stick-around effect. Your body deals with them, clears them and you can’t look for them and your body’s not holding onto their sequences or anything. Some of the DNA viruses can insert their DNA into the host. Also, the HIV virus has can leave tracks of itself in your genome, but most of the common cold viruses, they come, they conquer and then they leave. Most of the common cold viruses on earth, I misspoke. The common cold viruses that are RNA viruses just come hit, infect and then burn out, either because your immune system is able to conquer them most likely or you die.
Luke Peters: Yep. Let’s hope it’s not the latter. Spoken like a true virologist. Cool. That is really interesting actually. So the RNA viruses don’t have these longer term effects that DNA viruses do. That’s what I meant by asking the question is that viruses can insert DNA, and I don’t know a lot more than that, but that’s a very helpful and succinct answer. What’s a surprising fact, and I know you spent your career on this Dr. Gibson, but maybe for the general public, what might be something surprising about viruses that would be interesting to know about?
Marylou Gibson: Well, I just want to reiterate that antibiotics that we commonly go to the doctor and get for … that are prescribed like a Z-Pak or ampicillin or something like that have no effect on viruses. The first day that you come down with the sniffles and you think you’re getting a cold, an antibiotic treatment is very likely going to do nothing for your cold symptoms. Sometimes people after days or a week of a cold might get a secondary infection of their sinuses or something else, which that would merit antibiotic treatment quite likely. Going to the doctor on day one for a sniffle or a cold for antibiotics is not going to work, and on top of it, it’s possibly going to generate a resistant bacteria in your body, that then when you need an antibiotic to kill it, it won’t work. That’s something that I would like everybody to know. The other thing is, get the various vaccines that are available to you and protect yourself at least from those common infections that we can vaccinate ourselves against, especially influenza.
Luke Peters: Yeah. And good point on the … I mean, we didn’t get into a difference of virus and bacteria, but hopefully that the general public is somewhat well versed that at least they’re two different things. Like you said, antibiotic is not going to … it’s targeted for certain bacteria and certain organelles in the bacteria and also can mess up your gut flora too. So people, yeah, be careful on that and think about that.
Marylou Gibson: Absolutely. Yeah. For flu, there are a couple antiviral drugs, but most usually your body can wipe out flu infections without the need for an antiviral drug. That’s up to you and your doctor. I guess whether you request an antiviral for the flu, but you need to be positively diagnosed with flu before they will give you something like Tamiflu, which is on the market or Baloxavir. It just was put on the market last year by Roche. I can’t remember what the trade name is, but there’s two antivirals out there for flu.
Luke Peters: Cool. That’s helpful. I want to jump into your business actually. This will kind of be the end portion of us talking about coronavirus, but I just thought some listeners might find it super interesting that you’re also an entrepreneur. I just wanted to summarize it. We talked about kind of the virus details and where we are with the infection, but that is going to change really quick, and that we’re recording this to last day of the month. We talked about some travel tips and how viruses, I guess talking about why you get sick and you talked about the respiratory illness, and that it’s not always a secondary infection due to a bacteria. I thought that was actually pretty interesting.
Luke Peters: Thanks for all of that information, Dr. Gibson. So now I’d quickly like to just talk about your business because I found that fascinating. What did the company actually do at a VIRAPUR?
Marylou Gibson: I invented a virus purification kit for gene therapy applications in the early 2000s, and started selling that through and started this company VIRAPUR. I decided to start the company just because I was a mother with young children. I needed a little bit more flexibility from the 8:00 to 5:00 routine, pick up kids from school and whatnot. So I decided, well I’ve had enough of the 8:00 to 5:00 thing and I’m just going to use … There seemed to be interest in this invention so I decided to take a really big step and get out of the work world and start this effort myself. Then one thing led to another organically. Customers would say, “Well, that’s great, you can purify viruses, but can you grow viruses?”
Marylou Gibson: So we started a laboratory growing certain viruses. Mostly, things like influenza. Most of the common cold viruses we grow. The customers started becoming things like vaccine companies that are developing vaccines or diagnostic companies that are trying to diagnose certain viral illnesses they need controls that make sure that they’re their diagnostics work. Lastly, people asked us to screen new antiviral compounds that they think should have an effect against influenza or herpes virus or any number of viruses. Over the years, we developed a large clientele and in all of these services and the company has been fairly successful. In 2017, we sold the company to a Microbiologics Incorporated that has a larger interest in bacteria and viral diagnostics and custom services. So we’ve been a good match for their product line. I continue to serve as their scientific advisor for viruses.
Luke Peters: Wow. That’s got to be a challenge building the business with kids. How many kids do you have?
Marylou Gibson: I have three girls. All adults now. One is a surgeon and others are developing families or their own careers, mostly in medicine, so it’s interesting.
Luke Peters: Yeah. Well, that’s a great story. You grew the business. When you sold, how many people were on the team? Did you have other scientists working with you?
Marylou Gibson: I had five scientists at the time, now we’re up to 12 so we’ve had a lot of support from the company that’s purchased us, from Microbiologics, and the company continues to grow. We have some unique skills in virology that are hard to put together in other businesses. Some of our business is from companies that may not want to put their own research effort together to do the sorts of things that we do because it takes a lot of training. Virology in some ways is an art. A lot of sciences and arts. That’s how I look at it. Now we’re doing this artful science with very high level of quality and containment.
Luke Peters: Yeah. It looks like you teach for a while at UCSD, which is a University … well, UC San Diego, right?
Marylou Gibson: Yeah, University of California, San Diego. I taught in their extension program for seven years. I taught students who are pretty much in the workforce, new skills in biological manufacturing. For a while, when I worked in an industry, I was doing biological manufacturing. I was one of the people at Amgen involved in early Enbrel, which was a drug that’s sold by Amgen. It’s been on the market for probably almost 20 years now as well. I’ve done that kind of manufacturing of getting biological drugs on the market. San Diego being such a big biotech locus, there’s a lot of people interested in making drugs and control of drugs, what’s the science behind the making of drugs. Those are the types of things that I taught at UCSD.
Luke Peters: How did you bridge the gap? Because for a lot of scientists, they’re focused on their love and passion of science, but a business is a completely different discipline, and can sometimes be a turnoff for people who want to focus on the science. How did you bridge that gap and run a business at the same time? Because it’s a different skill set and just different activities that are involved there.
Marylou Gibson: I maybe blame it somewhat on my father who was himself an entrepreneur and ran a small business. From being small, I saw how hard it was, but how rewarding it was to run your own business. When I worked in industry, I think I learned a lot from just being another cog in the wheel, and in industry, I learned a lot from doing that. It kind of came naturally. You learn a lot as you go as a small business person. You make mistakes, you learn. But my goal has always been to serve and to do high quality work and do it ethically. That’s why I like running my own business when I did, that I can have control over those aspects.
Luke Peters: Yep. That’s absolutely … I just spoke at a middle school yesterday, just a quick little career day thing and that’s what I was telling the kids, it’s a different … there’s a lot of ways to look at business, and sometimes, kids when they’re young, they just want new pair of shoes and more money, but I said,” Hey, there’s other options.” Just like you said, you got a flexible schedule, you’re raising a family and you were able to start a business in a very complicated field. So that’s very challenging and hard to do, and especially as a woman, so that’s really a cool story. What are your plans post-sale? Sounds you’re still working at the new company and it’s growing. Anything, any thoughts on the future and what’s next for you?
Marylou Gibson: Well, thanks for asking. I’m open to opportunities. I enjoy teaching still. I’m interested in those aspects or being a consultant in teaching what I’ve amassed in my field over the last 40 years. I’m sure new opportunities will emerge for me. I’m open.
Luke Peters: Great, and what’s the best way for any of those folks to get in contact with you? Would it be LinkedIn or is there another preferred method?
Marylou Gibson: I am on LinkedIn. That’d be great. Yeah.
Luke Peters: Cool. Well, listen, thanks Dr. Gibson, really enjoyed the conversation and really looking forward to publishing this podcast. Hopefully, for the listeners, this was helpful and you guys learned some safety tips and also hopefully the science. We didn’t go too deep on that, but I just find all of that interesting in this world that most people don’t really talk about or even understand what these things are called viruses. I just want to thank all of you listeners for joining us today on the Page 1 Podcast, travel safely. Hopefully, all the supply chain stay fine for us as we go through Q1. I appreciate all your reviews on iTunes and we’ll see you on the next episode. Thank you.
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***CNN World News Live UPDATE AS OF 2/5/2020: Coronavirus cases reach nearly 25,000***
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Contact Dr. Marylou Gibson: LinkedIn