WMU News

Nine local biotech firms awarded first BRCC funds

March 30, 2004

KALAMAZOO--Acting at its March 29 inaugural meeting, the governing board of Western Michigan University's Biosciences Research and Commercialization Center approved funding for nine Kalamazoo County life science startup firms, a move expected to pay dividends in both new business development and the retention of scientific talent in the area.

The 10-member BRCC Governing Board of Directors approved recommendations to award a total of nearly $1.9 million to the nine companies. All nine firms are located in the Southwest Michigan Innovation Center, a life sciences business incubator, which is located on WMU's Parkview Campus.

The companies supported with BRCC funding include a total scientific work force of 67 people, including 25 who have earned doctoral degrees, 19 with master's degrees and 21 with bachelor's degrees. Included are company principals who have achieved international renown in such fields as protein biochemistry, infectious diseases and pharmaceutical development. Eight of the nine principal researchers who received funding are former scientists from Pharmacia or Pfizer. Anticipated revenue for the companies is nearly $7.3 million.

Funding recommendations were brought to the governing board for its consideration following a review of 12 submitted proposals. The proposals were evaluated by an independent scientific and business review board assembled for the task by WMU officials. Members of the independent review board included life sciences executives from the private sector; academic research specialists from WMU, Michigan State University and Northwestern University Medical School; and entrepreneurial development experts from the private sector and the University of Michigan.

Once that board completed its work, its recommendation were passed on to the Business and Finance Committee of the WMU Research Foundation for additional review before the recommendations were brought to the BRCC board for its consideration.

The company names and the amount awarded to each are as follows.

ADMETRx, was awarded $200,000 to provide profiling assays to support decision making in the development of drug candidates.

AmphiBiotics LLC was awarded $200,000 for work aimed at the discovery and development of new agents with novel antimicrobial capabilities.

AureoGen received $202,200 for production of novel cyclic peptide-based drugs through the genetic engineering of microorganisms.

Biopolymer Innovations received $200,000 for the development of modified polysaccharides for ophthalmic drug formulations.

CeeTox was awarded $200,000 to support development of a new in vitro, cell-based screening platform.

Kalexsyn was awarded $225,000 for development of its contract medicinal chemistry research offerings.

NanoVir received $218,840 for research aimed at the discovery and development of new topical treatments for the human papillomavirus, which is a leading cause of cervical cancer.

PharmOptima was awarded $225,000 to develop its contract research focus, which is aimed at facilitating and expediting drug discovery and development.

Proteos was awarded $225,000 for the production of purified proteins and peptides that will facilitate research and drug discovery.

AmphiBiotics, AureoGen, Biopolymer Innovations and NanoVir are classified as intellectual property companies. The remaining five are life sciences service firms.

Also during the governing board's initial meeting, members unanimously elected Don Parfet to serve as the board's chairperson. Parfet is managing director of the Apjohn Group LLC, a Kalamazoo-based business accelerator organization focused on early-state life science opportunities.

Conceived in the spring of 2003, the BRCC aims to turn the latest bioscience discoveries into new processes and products for the commercial market, tapping into the expertise of former Pfizer scientists and other top researchers from around the nation. The center was established with $10 million authorized by the Michigan Legislature, and it received final authorization from the state's Technology Tri-Corridor Steering Committee Dec. 1, 2003, when members approved the BRCC's five-year business plan.

Media contact: Cheryl Roland, 269 387-8400, cheryl.roland@wmich.edu

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