Global Conversation with Dr. Stephen Tang

By Peak Johnson

Dr. Stephen Tang, President and CEO of OraSure Technologies will be the recipient of Global Philadelphia’s 2021 Globy Award for Corporate Leadership on December 13. Before becoming president and CEO, Dr. Tang joined the OraSure Board in April 2011 and was the Company’s Chairman of the Board from 2016-2018. 

Global Philadelphia had the opportunity to speak to Dr. Tang about his nomination, Orasure, and his thoughts on leadership. 

Peak Johnson: You're being nominated in the category of corporate leadership. How does that make you feel? 

Dr. Stephen Tang: It gives me great pride when I think of all that our Company accomplished this year, and I am proud to accept this award on behalf of our team. It took the mind, body, heart, and soul of our entire organization to launch our products for COVID-19. Our core LIVE IT values of Leading with Integrity, Inspiring Innovation, Valuing our Customers, Embracing Teamwork, Impacting Success and Thinking Quality have fueled and inspired us through the pandemic. This award is proof positive that company culture is key to success, and I am honored to lead a company with such a dynamic culture.

PJ: In your opinion, what would you say makes a good leader? 

ST: Our world is constantly changing. The only way a company can respond to change is to be prepared and stay ahead of the curve. At OraSure this means infusing the organization with innovation. I believe that innovation starts with asking the right questions and feeling safe and inspired to be able to do so. At OraSure, and within our subsidiaries, I strive to maintain a culture that encourages and embraces trailblazing concepts. This approach to culture allows employees to breathe life into ideas. Encouraging innovation is a key component to my management style 

PJ: A lot has changed in the city since you last spoke with Global Philadelphia in 2017, I think you were still with the University of Science Center. Could you tell us what you're up to now at OraSure?

ST: OraSure set an ambitious goal of quickly developing a COVID-19 rapid test at the outset of the pandemic. We received three Emergency Use Authorizations (EUAs) for our InteliSwab™ product in June 2021. 

OraSure has been awarded three significant government contracts for InteliSwab™ recently: 

  • September 20: Defense Logistics Agency awarded a $205 million procurement contract for OraSure’s InteliSwab™ Covid-19 rapid test for over-the-counter use. This is the largest contract in our company’s history. 
  • September 23: The Biomedical Advanced Research Development Authority (BARDA), provided $13.6 million in funding for the company to obtain 510(k) clearance and Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA) waiver for InteliSwab™ from the FDA
  • October 4: U.S. Department of Defense awarded a $109 million contract to OraSure to allow the company to build additional manufacturing capacity for its InteliSwab™ tests

These tests will help save lives and allow people to safely return to work and school making these accomplishments especially rewarding. The aforementioned contracts ultimately will also help us accelerate our transformation into a larger, stronger, and more innovative company.

PJ: What are some of the things that OraSure focuses on and why?

ST: OraSure Technologies empowers the global community to improve health and wellness by providing access to accurate, essential information. Together with its wholly-owned subsidiaries, DNA Genotek, Diversigen, and Novosanis, OraSure provides its customers with end-to-end solutions that encompass tools, services, and diagnostics.

The OraSure family of companies is a leader in the development, manufacture, and distribution of rapid diagnostic tests, sample collection and stabilization devices, and molecular services solutions designed to discover and detect critical medical conditions.

PJ: Were there any lessons that you may have learned while at the Science Center that you are applying to OraSure? 

ST: I believe you learn lessons in every role. The Center was a hub of innovation and I’ve enjoyed building on that knowledge and philosophy at OraSure. 

PJ: Has it been challenging for the company and you since the arrival of COVID 19? If so, how are you adjusting to these challenges? 

ST: COVID-19 has interrupted so much of "normal" life. I’m proud of the work our team has done since the very beginning of the pandemic. Our commitment to improving global health has not wavered in the face of COVID-19; instead, it’s what fueled us as we sought to develop a test for this insidious virus, that can be used by anyone, anywhere, at any time. 

PJ: To you, what are some of the qualities that make Philadelphia a global city?   

ST: Philadelphia has a vibrant “meds and eds” culture that contributes to many aspects of the world, including global health. It’s the city I’ve called home for almost 10 years, and to me, it is one of the most vibrant cities in the world. 

PJ: How does OraSure position Greater Philadelphia as a global region?

ST: OraSure is part of the greater Philadelphia/New York region. Headquartered in Bethlehem, Pa., OraSure was launched from Ben Franklin Technology Partners’ Business Incubator at Lehigh University in 1987. Today, OraSure Technologies empowers the global community to improve health and wellness by providing access to accurate, essential information. Together with its wholly-owned subsidiaries, DNA Genotek, Diversigen, and Novosanis, OraSure provides its customers with end-to-end solutions that encompass tools, services, and diagnostics. OraSure's portfolio of products is sold globally to various clinical laboratories, hospitals, clinics, community-based organizations and other public health organizations, research institutions, distributors, government agencies, physicians' offices, commercial and industrial entities, as well as direct to consumers.

PJ: What do you hope that OraSure continues to bring to Greater Philadelphia?

ST: I’m really pleased that OraSure can elevate Bethlehem and the Lehigh Valley. We are an easy commute from the Philadelphia region, and we continue to offer attractive jobs to the region at large. Many of my colleagues live near Philadelphia, with global responsibilities.