For The Record with Charles Kummeth, CEO, Bio-Techne

Charles Kummeth became President and Chief Executive Officer of Techne Corporation on April 1, 2013. Prior to joining the Company, he served as President of Mass Spectrometry and Chromatography at Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc. and was President of that company’s Laboratory Consumables Division from 2009 to September 2011. Prior to joining Thermo Fisher, Mr. Kummeth served in various roles during his 24 year career at 3M Corporation, most recently as the Vice President of the company’s Medical Division from 2006 to 2008.

Mr. Kummeth received a Master of Science in Computer Science from the University of St. Thomas and a Master of Business Administration from the Carlson School of Business at the University of Minnesota. He is a graduate of the University of North Dakota, where he received a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering. Mr. Kummeth serves on the boards of Sparton and Avantor.

Give us the Bio-Techne elevator pitch.

Bio-Techne is a Minnesota-headquartered company with over 40 years of being in business worldwide by providing key reagents to the life science community. Our products enable investigators doing basic research, clinical studies, and in the development of both diagnostic and clinical solutions for various diseases, such as cancer, inflammatory disorders, neurological pathologies, and many other pathologies associated with immune system dysregulation. We develop, manufacture, and commercialize proteins (more specifically cytokines and growth factors), antibodies, immunoassays, and gene expression assays that allow scientists to measure the level of selected blood protein or genes that are either associated or have diagnostic utility for various diseases. We also sell instruments that automate many of the above tests as well as classic proteomics research. Additionally, our products are key components in cell and gene therapy solutions and both tissue and liquid biopsy diagnostics.  

What has COVID-19 meant for Bio-Techne thus far?

The current COVID-19 pandemic has created both challenges and opportunities for Bio-Techne. While we are unable to serve all of our customers, our products and instruments are now in high demand. As the world continues to better understand the infectivity behavior of the COVID-19 virus, the studies to conduct this work is often done with the type of products we sell: whether this is to study how the virus enters into cells, what enzymes are activated during the viral entry process, which antibodies may be able to neutralize the action of the virus, or the antibody response from patients once they have been infected. One of the hallmarks of COVID-19 infection is the sudden and massive inflammatory response that occurs following infection of the lung tissue.

Cytokines, the proteins we specialize in making and detecting, are becoming an important tool to monitor as an indicator of a worsening condition and requiring ICU intervention. We have a number of projects specifically targeted to the COVID-19 biology and hope to roll out a test to assist in the monitoring of patients’ immunoglobulin (IgM and IgG) response following infection. From our perspective, we are as busy as we have always been and welcome this opportunity to serve our community and the scientific world.

How are you approaching talent and workforce during the COVID-19 pandemic?

We have taken the pledge here: We are keeping all employees, at full compensation and employment through our fiscal Q4, June 30, to relieve any near-term anxiety. We will assess the situation at that point to either conduct furloughs or restructuring. We have also moved all employees to work remote from home if possible. Production and shipping have moved to staggered shifts to promote social distance. Face masks are now enforced at work. Entrances for employees have been designed to minimize mobility and to compartmentalize any contamination. No air travel is allowed at this time and all site visitation is suspended. Management videos and communication are conducted almost daily.

What do you think this global pandemic will mean for the healthcare industry in the years to come?

It will increase awareness and hence investment and funding for research into all aspects of life sciences: oncology, neuroscience, and of course infectious diseases such as COVID-19. Bio-Techne is well positioned to help in the advances in life sciences research.

What does leadership look like to you?

Being engaged and on the front line. Talking to and listening to employees. Interacting with industry and local peers. Involvement. Building plans, executing, and following through…and rewarding for great results. Developing people and future leaders and leaving a positive legacy.

What is the best advice you have received in your career? What is the worst?

The best: Work hard, always try to keep learning and be ok with sideways career moves, not always up. The worst: Always stay in your lane…

What have been the most rewarding moments in your career?

By far, accepting the offer in 2013 to be CEO of Bio-Techne (called Techne back then) is the most rewarding moment in my career. Others have been things like launching the most advanced mass spec in the industry for Thermo Fisher (when I was president) and achieving $150MM first year sales. Turning around the UK subsidiary for 3M in less than two years was another highlight for me. Grooming several individuals and seeing them become senior executives at 3M, Thermo, and other companies.

What is one personal goal for the upcoming year?

Not laying off or furloughing any employees during the coronavirus crisis.

How do you relax / decompress?

I like to study history and collect antiques. I also like biking and working up at my cabin.

What do you enjoy most about the Medical Alley community? 

The strength in the numbers. Hundreds of peer companies that together make up the largest healthcare community in the world. The leadership in the local healthcare community is very strong and we have a big voice in all aspects of the local economy.

Welcome to Medical Alley Association’s For The Record interview series! Join us as we sit down with innovators in the delivery, payment, technology, and policy industries, giving us – and in turn, you – access to diverse perspectives on how healthcare is changing and what lies ahead.

Medical Alley is the global epicenter of health innovation and care; For The Record, is meant to share insights and spark discussion. If you have a perspective on the future of healthcare, feel free to share it by reaching out to Jamie Oyen, Marketing Manager at joyen@medicalalley.org

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