Celebrating an Entrepreneurial Legacy

Alison Demarest & Thomas Blake of PACE Life Sciences Retire

Congratulations to Alison Demarest & Thomas Blake of PACE Life Sciences on their retirement. This dynamic duo founded Meridian BioGroup in 2007 after nearly a year of planning, offering expert validation, regulatory, and compliance contract services to the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries. In 2012, their company earned the Maryland Incubator Company of the Year award in the Technology Professional Service Category. In August 2022, it was acquired by Pace Life Sciences, continuing its tradition of excellence and bringing qualified specialists from manufacturing, quality control, quality assurance, engineering, validation, regulatory affairs, and related backgrounds to meet clients’ needs in FDA-regulated environments.

Tom and Alison have been consistent fixtures in the FITCI ecosystem as a thriving client, then serving as inspiration and a resource to the incubator’s startups. Their success is well earned. Throughout the years they’ve employed 111 people and served more than 100 customers, many of those in Maryland. Currently, their office at Metropolitan Court has more than three dozen employees and long-term subcontractors engaged in projects. Services include validation of facility utility systems, process equipment, processes and support equipment; development of quality systems; quality audits and gap analyses; regulatory strategy and submissions; training delivery and development of training programs; validation master plan development, and many other necessary components of GXP-compliant quality systems.

Coworkers and FITCI compatriots gathered for a potluck celebration to bid them best wishes on their retirement and recognize their entrepreneurial legacy as one of FITCI’s earliest companies. FITCI CEO Kathie Callahan Brady acknowledged the steep and jagged path every startup founder takes in striving toward this pinnacle moment.

“After 16 years, they beat the odds. We know that 50% of businesses fail in the first year and 50% of those remaining fail in the second year. That’s a well-known fact. And it usually takes 3 to 4 years to become profitable, with only 40% ever turning a profit.” Even their transition from profitable, established business through the acquisition process is a success story. As Kathie continues, “Very few businesses are sold. Only 30% survive to that stage and 70% to 90% fail during acquisition.”

Some of the most important factors that contribute to startup success, as demonstrated by Tom and Alison, include:

• Strong Learning Curve
Clear Vision
• Differentiated Product/Service
• The Ability to Execute
• Adaptability

Pitfalls are myriad. Factors that can bring a company down include:

• Lack of Capital
• Failure to Acquire Customers
• Competition
• Regulation
• Management/Growth Issues

There are approximately 618,000 small businesses in Maryland, accounting for 99.5% of businesses here and employing 1.2 million people. That’s nearly half of the State’s workforce according to the SBA Office of Advocacy.

Alison offers this piece of advice to would-be entrepreneurs from her own experience. “I definitely say ‘get a partner.’ There’s always more than one person can do.”

Tom concurs. “Somehow, the two of us, with different personalities, we made it work… I think part of success is having the confidence that the other person is doing their job and can be trusted, not feeling that there is an inequity.”

Tom also shared insight about the company’s original name, Meridian. “It is the highest point in the sky. We didn’t want something average. We hoped to grow and the concept conveyed a sense of limitlessness.” That core idea informed the tagline, too: your vision, our talent, precisely aligned.
“We always talked about trying to find the right talent for the job, not forcing a square peg into a round hole,” continues Tom. “We are always honest with our clients. We never low-ball them or over-promise. We always focus on what we can do and on finding the right talent for the job.”

As the group enjoyed delicious food and camaraderie, Kathie and the FITCI Team presented the guests of honor with personalized awards to acknowledge their accomplishments and commemorate their time at FITCI.

Outstanding Leadership Award: Thomas Blake

For providing thoughtful guidance and inspiring excellence. Thank you for leading with honor, commitment, and integrity. You are a guiding star.

Visionary/Rule Breaker Award: Alison Demarest

For your leading-edge spirit and creative approach to every pursuit. Thank you for continuing to think in new and innovative ways.

The pair also received the first honorary membership passes to The EDGE@321 Basecamp in FITCI’s new community biotech center and a coveted stuffed version of its mascot – the indomitable mountain G.O.A.T.

The professional journey of Alison Demarest and Tom Blake is a reminder of the power of vision, talent, and unwavering commitment to excellence. We hope their legacy serves to inspire others to embrace partnership, trust, and integrity as they pursue their own dreams. Please join us in wishing two of our favorite entrepreneurial mountain climbers best wishes on their next adventures.

May your futures be filled with happiness and fulfillment.