How a homegrown company maintains its culture through global expansion

While BioCryst has been around for more than three decades, the past few years have brought unprecedented global growth for the biotech company.

Posted Updated
Abbey Slattery
, WRAL Digital Solutions
This article was written for our sponsor, BioCryst Pharmaceuticals.

Keeping a company with facilities across multiple geographies connected is challenging — throw in a global pandemic, and plenty of companies would crack under the pressure.

At BioCryst Pharmaceuticals, a biotech company focused on novel medicines for rare and serious diseases, the past two years have actually brought unprecedented growth. The company was founded in 1986, but has recently doubled in size and expanded operations across North America and Europe.

"At the beginning of 2021, we had 230 employees, and we finished the year at 360 employees. As of the first quarter of 2022, we've already hired around 60 additional employees with many more expected to join us later in the year," said George Kafes, director of talent acquisition at BioCryst. "We're growing at a very fast pace as we continue to expand our operations, now that we have a rare disease drug on the market."

BioCryst is based in Durham and has a longstanding research facility in Birmingham, AL, known as its Discovery Center of Excellence, but the company’s growth has required expansion into additional markets. For example, the company’s European headquarters is in Dublin, Ireland, and it is continuing to build a presence throughout Europe and other regions.

As the employee base has expanded, so too has the company’s operations. After many years as a company focused on research and development, BioCryst has recently transitioned into being a commercial-stage company based on the strong launch of its first product for a rare disease.

Many BioCryst employees work a full remote or hybrid schedule, which has helped fuel its growth strategy — especially when it comes to establishing operations overseas.

"When I joined the company, the European structure at BioCryst was lean. We had affiliates in the U.K., Germany and France that had just been created, and I was the first employee at our affiliate in Ireland,” said Ana Huerto, director of European H.R. at BioCryst. “BioCryst has grown during the pandemic, and the European structure was really created during this time — many of us have only just recently met each other in person for the first time. It’s very remarkable that a small company like ours has managed to create this network across Europe, primarily remotely, and yet we have been able to maintain our efficiency and sense of unity."

While Huerto initially had concerns about working remotely and on a five-hour time difference from her U.S.-based colleagues, the company culture quickly quelled those worries.

"I thought it would be quite difficult, but it hasn’t been. Every employee who joins the company has a very comprehensive induction process, and you have someone to talk to every step of the way. Within those first few days, you know exactly what you are supposed to be doing and what to expect," said Huerto. "There is a distinctive culture, which is very inclusive — it’s a small company that has been managed like a family business. You trust each other, you’re very committed and everyone appreciates your commitment to the company. In return, the company is very transparent and keeps us informed on everything going on in real-time. That’s been key to our success and, especially for us in Europe, to feeling connected."

"The culture, to me, is the difference. The culture here is noticeable from the very beginning, and that’s been the glue for people in these difficult times and a big part of what differentiates us from other biotech companies," she added.

The company culture at BioCryst is an important thread that connects all employees, whether in Europe or here in the U.S., thanks to the emphasis placed on culture at the highest levels of the company.

While employees in the U.S. were used to working in person before the pandemic, like many companies, many of them were able to quickly adjust to remote work, with the exception of those who work in the research labs. Now, BioCryst is allowing people the freedom to choose a hybrid schedule. In fact, the company has expanded its presence in Durham with an office environment that was designed to accommodate hybrid schedules.

While BioCryst is continuing its growth across geographies, the new office space demonstrates its commitment to its local employees and the Triangle community.

"There's so much talent here in the Triangle. We’re lucky to be in such an attractive place to recruit people, and there's so much to offer those of us who are based here," said Kafes. "That said, we are tremendously proud of our ability to maintain our culture as we connect and work with colleagues all over the world, wherever they’re based. We believe this gives BioCryst a competitive advantage as we continue to build a great biotech company."

This article was written for our sponsor, BioCryst Pharmaceuticals.


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