Why Massachusetts’ Corbus Keeps a ‘Remarkably Young Staff’—And How it Plans to Double Headcount

Published: Dec 09, 2016

Why Massachusetts’ Corbus Pharmaceuticals Keeps a ‘Remarkably Young Staff’—And How it Plans to Double Headcount December 8, 2016
By Renee Morad, BioSpace.com Breaking News Staff

At Corbus Pharmaceuticals , in Norwood, Mass., some 30 employees thrive in an innovative work environment—complete with a monthly masseuse, a karaoke room and a “sensory deprivation” room.

To be sure, this clinical stage drug development company, which targets rare, chronic and serious inflammatory and fibrotic diseases, heavily emphasizes hard work over play.

In fact, that hard work paid off when Corbus recently announced positive, better-than-anticipated results from a mid-stage study of experimental drug Resunab for treating systemic sclerosis, a chronic, systemic autoimmune rheumatic disease that affects approximately 90,000 people in the U.S. and Europe, with the overwhelming majority being women.

But with long stretches of work like those at Corbus—similar to the loaded workdays of IT professionals—comes a need for employees to leverage inventive ways to unwind and refresh. “If you’re feeling overwhelmed, you go in the sensory deprivation room that has no windows, close the soundproof door, spend however long you need to disconnect, and then come out in a totally different frame of mind,” Corbus Chief Executive Officer Yuval Cohen told BioSpace.

Corbus employs what Cohen calls “a remarkably young workforce,” and intentionally seeks passion, curiosity and enthusiasm over experience. Employees’ average age is about 26 or 27, and there has been a big push to hire people starting their careers.

“The trade off is that some of these hires are probably not as experienced as peers in other companies, but what we gain in return is that they tend to be incredibly enthusiastic, very passionate about what they do and not jaded,” Cohen said.

It’s important to the company that the organization is as flat as possible, and that everyone can talk to each other. Cohen plans to keep this structure even as Corbus expands. The company plans about 30 new hires within the next year and a half.

When looking for new talent, competency and the right qualifications, of course, take priority, he said, but other factors like personality often hold more value than experience. Cohen firmly believes that “you can teach someone experience, but you can’t teach them personality.”

Currently, Corbus is actively recruiting for about six open positions related to clinical operations.

In addition to boosting headcount, the company has expanded its facility space, from 6,000 square feet to approximately 11,000 square feet.

Corbus is working on Phase II development of Resunab for the treatment of cystic fibrosis and dermatomyositis, along with systemic sclerosis, with trial results anticipated in early 2017.

Resunab is an oral synthetic endocannabinoid-mimetic that preferentially binds to the cannabinoid receptor type 2 expressed on activated immune cells and fibroblasts. This process triggers biochemical pathways that resolve inflammation and fibrosis.

With much promise on the horizon, the staff is still riding on the positive energy from its recent Phase II trial results for Resunab this past November.

Cohen said the day he learned of the positive results, he and the company’s chief medical officer Barbara White were together in NYC in their lawyer’s office.

They summoned the staff back in Norwood to gather in the conference room, where at 4:01 pm after markets closed, they dialed in to shout in unison, “It worked!”

Cohen said staffers immediately started screaming, crying, hugging and giving high-fives. “It was just the most amazing moment for the team,” he recalled.

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