Sponsored by Oregon Business

Bend Research reinvents itself under CEO Rod Ray

| Print |  Email
Articles - May 2010
Friday, April 16, 2010
CEO: Rod Ray
2009 GROSS REVENUES: under $30 million
FUN FACT: 18 employees have Ph.D.s

You could say Rod Ray’s high-school sweetheart got him where he is today. Her father, then owner of Bend Research, gave Ray a summer job building an 1,800-foot post-and-rail fence around the 40-acre Tumalo property to keep out cows.

The fence is long gone (as is the sweetheart), but Ray is not. He kept coming back to work at Bend Research every summer and Christmas vacation during his undergrad years at Oregon State University. He returned permanently after getting a Ph.D. in chemical engineering and has spent his entire 27-year career working for Bend Research in development, chemical engineering and directing the engineering department.

Now as CEO he is reinventing the company’s business model to make Bend Research a leader in pharmaceutical drug-delivery research.

Bend Research, founded in 1975, specializes in developing ways that make it possible for drugs to enter the body and go to the places they are meant to treat. “A lot of those drugs have physical properties that make them quite difficult to work in your body,” Ray says. Those problems include not being able to dissolve in water, be digested by the body or be released over a period of time.

Bend Research worked exclusively for the pharmaceutical giant Pfizer between 1994 and 2008, when it grew from $10 million to $40 million in annual revenue with state-of-the-art facilities and research capabilities.

Ray, 54, became CEO in 2008. Two weeks later, Pfizer ended its contract with Bend Research as a result of consolidation and downsizing. Ray suddenly was confronted by the daunting challenge of needing to immediately grow Bend Research’s clientele from nothing.

Pfizer gave Bend Research the rights to technologies it had developed. “I didn’t know at the time how truly fair Pfizer was going to be to us,” Ray says. “If they had not done those things, we wouldn’t have grown fast enough to thrive.”

But Bend Research wasn’t yet out of deep business weeds. “Our new business without Pfizer, I knew, would be different.” Ray says. Costs were cut 25% by eliminating 25 positions and extraneous departments. Bend Research now employs 159 people. Initial clients resulted from connections made through Pfizer, and it was critical to create a quality product that would retain those clients for future projects.

“We worked our rear ends off,” says Ray.


It’s paid off. In 2008, 100% of revenues came from Pfizer. In the first quarter of 2009, it was 5%. Bend Research now has 40 clients; almost all of them are repeat customers and hail from the East Coast, Europe and China. Ray estimates gross revenues this year will be more than $30 million. That’s under the $40 million mark it had during the Pfizer years, but Ray predicts steady growth. “The key to growth is doing high-quality work for the clients we have,” he says.

Ray uses what he calls the “alliance model” of working with a client. Bend Research works closely with the pharmaceutical company to improve a drug’s capabilities instead of being an isolated contractor. “We always try to work on a drug in a team rather than on our own,” he says. “It works better to work with the client who knows their drug really well, and we know technology real well.”

And it makes Bend Research “a line item in their budget.”

Future growth will not only result from maintaining long-term relationships with clients, but also marketing Bend Research as a problem-solving company.

“The real key is deciding what problem you are trying to solve on a particular drug. Sometimes they appear to be insoluble, but they won’t go through the wall of your body. That’s a permeability problem,” Ray says. “If you’re not solving the right problem, you’re wasting everyone’s time and money.”

Ray is also considering expanding the company’s offerings. Bend Research is adding a 15,000-square-foot building that will be used for small-scale commercial manufacturing. “Right now…we only make supplies for the testing phase,” he says. “But the key is to advance [the drug companies'] medicines toward the markets. It’s satisfying because their medicines are being used to cure diseases.” 


More Articles


November/December 2015
Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The world's second-largest wind energy project yields costs and benefits for a sheep-farming family in Eastern Oregon.


The List: 100 Best Nonprofits to Work For in Oregon

October 2015
Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Oregon Business magazine’s seventh annual 100 Best Nonprofits to Work For project attracted more than 150 nonprofits from around the state from a variety of sectors, including social services and environmental advocacy.  More than 5,000 employees and volunteers filled out the survey, rating their satisfaction with work environment, mission and goals, career development and learning, benefits and compensation, and management and communications.


The death and life of American cities

Linda Baker
Monday, November 02, 2015
housingoldpdx thumbBY LINDA BAKER

The hollowing out of the American city is now a bona fide cultural meme.  Newspapers, magazines and digital media sites are publishing story after story about the morphing of urban grit and diversity into bastions of wealth and commodity culture.


The High Road

November/December 2015
Wednesday, October 28, 2015

As CEO and owner of five different cannabis-related businesses generating a total net revenue of $2 million, Alex Rogers could sit back and ride the lucrative wave of Oregon’s burgeoning pot industry.


Big Geek

October 2015
Monday, September 28, 2015

To attract technology companies, the U.S. Bancorp Tower repositions itself as open, light and playful.


The Cover Story

The Latest
Tuesday, October 06, 2015
100515-cover1015-news-thumbBY CHRIS NOBLE

As we worked on the October cover, it became evident that Nick Symmonds is a hard man to catch — even when he’s not hotfooting it around a track.


Tech to Table

November/December 2015
Wednesday, October 28, 2015

A Power Lunch at the Barn Light Cafe & Bar in Eugene.

Oregon Business magazinetitle-sponsored-links-02