30 Under 30: Jacobo Lopez Chavez is pumping up pharma research in B.C. and beyond

Black Tusk Research Group helps health authorities run clinical trials while Arc Biosystems works with pharmaceutical companies directly

Jacobo Lopez Chavez, 26

Vice-president of finance and operations, Black Tusk Research Group; co-founder, Arc Biosystems

Life Story: Jacobo Lopez Chavez never thought he’d go to university, let alone work in health care—he just wanted to start his own business in Mexico City. “There are people that do what they love and then people that learn to love what they do. I always thought that I was going to work in a ‘boring industry’ or something that didn’t necessarily nurture my soul, but I would learn to love what I did,” says Chavez.

It was a co-op opportunity in 2018 with Vancouver-based Black Tusk Research Group (BTRG) that changed his thinking. The site management organization specializes in clinical  trials: it helps health authorities and B.C. universities with coordination, project management and regulatory support for academic and pharma research. At the height of the pandemic, BTRG helped local hospitals and long-term care facilities perform COVID rapid testing.

“It was really cool to have a direct impact on something that was affecting the world, and an incredible feeling to have my work be reflected in something that could help a lot of people,” says Chavez.

He graduated from UBC with a commerce degree in 2020, then became BTRG’s new VP of finance and operations the following year. It’s a sensitive business—“you have to cross every t and dot every i,” Chavez admits—but it’s also highly rewarding.

In fact, in 2020, he was able to launch a spin-off company, Arc Biosystems, with BTRG CEO Lynda Lazosky and chief medical officer John Boyd to work with firms on pharma research directly.

Bottom Line: Arc is currently working with three pharma companies around the world. BTRG, meanwhile, has scaled from five to 40 employees since 2018 and partnered with 10 pharmaceutical companies in that same period. Its research spans 10 illness types, including respiratory, endocrinology and neurology.