CEA Emerging Company Winner: Portrett Taps Into Drug Discovery Testing

By Cheryl L. Serra, posted May 6, 2022
EMERGING COMPANY | PORTRETT PHARMACEUTICALS Kimberly Lupo, Founder & CEO | Year Founded: 2021 | Employees: 2 FT / 1 Consultant (Photo by Aris Harding)
Kimberly Lupo’s reason for wanting to open her own business is noble.
“I wanted to be able to provide an impact on people’s lives – my employees, my clients and ultimately, the patients that we’re developing these drugs for,” she said.
And she’s learning a lot about how to overcome business challenges. Her biggest right now, she said, is to get her company’s name out there.
Lupo is founder and CEO of Portrett Pharmaceuticals, a small molecule testing laboratory founded in 2021 that performs analytical testing for drug discovery companies. She is currently one of the company’s two employees, and she also works with a quality consultant.
“Drug discovery companies come to us to perform their analytical testing that’s required by the FDA in order to get those drugs approved and on the market,” Lupo said.
Portrett competes with hundreds of companies around the world.
“What sets us apart is we have a unique process flow that allows us to not have a testing queue and allows us to turn around our testing super quick in comparison to our competitors ... and so we save the company money and time,” Lupo said.
Market demands for her services slowed a bit with COVID, Lupo said. The expectation, however, is that the market will grow by 30% within the next five years.
“The challenge is client acquisition at this point,” Lupo said. “We’re new, so just brand awareness and getting those clients in that can provide those testimonials and referrals is one of our barriers … because in our industry, referrals are really key. People talk. Even though it’s a large industry, it’s a small world.”
Customer service and follow-up are crucial elements.
Lupo is networking and conducting outreach in the industry and relying on professional contacts to boost business. She also has several contacts that serve as mentors and a counselor from the SBTBC (Small Business and Technology Development Center), a University of North Carolina business advisory resource located at UNCW. Jim Roberts also provides help, she said.
Lupo came to the business with a strong technical background, working in the pharmaceutical industry for companies such as Metrics Contract Services (Mayne Pharma), Irix and Quality Chemicals.
Lupo earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from the University of North Carolina at Pembroke and a Master of Science degree in analytical chemistry from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. She completed her Master of Business Administration degree at Eastern Carolina University. She also obtained her regulatory affairs certification in 2015.
Lupo wants to grow the company locally, aiming for 300 jobs in the next decade.
“It’s been a lot more difficult than I ever thought it was going to be, but I’m already reaping the rewards from it,” she said about the start. “It’s going to be pretty awesome in a few years when I look back and really reaping the rewards.”

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