By Chris Kenji Beer
Northwest Asian Weekly
An industry or business sector as removed from the public eye as any is the technology innovation achieved through biotech, pharmaceutical, and medical research. Yet so much of our health depends on it, and so much controversy derives from companies like Monsanto and Pfizer and medicinal chemicals found in cannabis. Even more remote are companies that do the scientific research and develop the technology that facilitates the product extraction and licenses out the enabling technology.
When we speak of technology in these fields, let’s call it bio-medical technology collectively.
It’s not easily visible hardware or tangible software code, but often occurs at the microscopic level. These companies achieve a unique ability to sparse out and separate chemical elements from a plant or other natural resources beyond what the eye can see. This is where Kelly Ogilvie’s professional life resides. He finds innovative ways to bridge the gap between raw materials, often possessing limited or no consumer value, and finding that “diamond in the rough” that offers innovative value to consumers. Take for example, the company Ogilvie runs as CEO, DeepCell Industries.
DeepCell has developed an innovative way to extract the maximum potency and concentration of cannabidiol (CBD) from cannabis. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) has the known narcotic effect in marijuana, but CBD can be used for medicinal purposes. CDB is believed to be effective in treating epilepsy, cancer, autism, and mental health conditions. It has also been found to be more effective than aspirin as an anti-inflammatory agent. Other consumer applications developed by DeepCell are the “Ruby” brand, a cannabis-infused salt and “Sapphire,” the world’s first cannabis salt.
“We think of ourselves as a bio Intellectual Ventures,” said Ogilvie. Intellectual Ventures is a Seattle company that partners with a worldwide network of inventors, and buys and licenses patents, according to its website. Furthermore, DeepCell licenses its IP, including the technology tools that enable companies to extract the chemicals or elements they need to create products for consumers. Just as restrictions on the cannabis industry are coming down, DeepCell is in the middle of its merging with life sciences and the pharmaceutical industry.
DeepCell has developed a technology that can mix small doses of raw material, such as cannabis. “We have developed the ability to dissolve cannabis into water and control droplets (using electricity) for the first time,” says Ogilvie, applying what is called “microfluidics.”
Ogilvie’s current career move to run DeepCell lines up nicely with his career path. Besides a few government jobs with former Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels and economic adviser to Governor Jay Inslee, Ogilvie started out in the biotech world, having co-founded a company currently based in Missoula, Mont. called Blue Marble Biomaterials. “Blue Marble revolutionized the chemical manufacturing sector by naturally and sustainably bio-manufacturing specialty chemicals from cellulosic biomass for the global food, fragrance, and cosmetic sectors (using bacteria),” explains Ogilvie.
Mentors and influencers
Ogilvie said “passion” is no misnomer. He is passionate about his work and believes in biotech’s role in improving people’s lives. “I’ve been helped and guided throughout my life starting with my dad, Alan Ogilvie.” One of Kelly’s favorite quotes from his father is, “When everyone goes right, go left.” Kelly’s version of his father’s advice is “go to where the puck is going to be, not where it is.” Blazing a trail is more risky, admits Ogilvie. “It’s more difficult to achieve.”
To be successful in a high risk proposition, Ogilvie believes there are key factors that can mitigate the risk. “You can observe the macro (economic) trends occurring in the marketplace, where things are going.” Your education and career learning refines “a lot of gut [based], subconscious calculations of probability,” said Ogilvie. “It’s connected to what you learn out in the real world.” Ogilvie grew up locally and received his undergraduate degree from Seattle University in Humanities, with a focus on International Business. He is currently enrolled at Harvard’s extension graduate program in nanotechnology and bioengineering.
Ogilvie also credits political activist Ruth Woo for helping him get his first internship with Gary Locke when Locke was in the state legislature. Seeing Locke was one of Ogilvie’s first exposures to the “non-stereotypical,” non-“kung-fu” role models shown in the mass American media, which he was exposed to as a child. Other legislative leaders with whom he worked, including Kip Tokuda and Velma Veloria, had an effect on him as well.
Despite his proximity to politicians, Ogilvie said, “I don’t have political aspirations. I’m a firm believer that it should be a cause as a calling to public service. I would only consider it if I felt that I could positively impact society around an issue or cultural movement.”
Millennials have a reputation of being risk averse and at times narcissistic. But Ogilvie spoke of his generation (as a 30-something) as “humane, open to and accepting of diversity, progressive, and well-educated. Millennials believe in volunteerism and care about the community,” said Ogilvie. When asked about success, Ogilvie doesn’t think about success in the traditional sense. “I see everything in life as a growing challenge, as an opportunity to change or impact the world in a positive way.”
The bottom line is, regardless of what career path one chooses, “relationships are what drives the success or failure of any business.” Ogilvie said “dealing with people is the hardest thing to do. You have to build and manage teams of people who fill in where you are weak.” He stated it is critical to know yourself. “The biggest risk is self-doubt and not knowing yourself. Your weakest wounds are self-inflicted, such as not valuing the opinions of others,” he adds. “I believe my Asian heritage has instilled honor and humility in me.”
Ogilvie does not subscribe to the “my way or the highway” approach, but believes in being part of a team that embraces conciliation and compromise.” Critical to success he says is “letting go of that ‘hero-syndrome’” (we were raised with in America). “Being Asian American has helped me be that nexus.”
Chris Kenji Beer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.