WMU News

Biotech company joins Innovation Center

Oct. 1, 2001

KALAMAZOO -- Kalamazoo is announcing its second high-tech tenant at the Innovation Center--this time, a Chicago-based biotech company that has developed a treatment for kidney disease.

Biotechnology company NephRx Corp. will join Esperion Therapeutics Inc. in the Southwest Michigan Innovation Center, a life sciences business incubator temporarily housed in WMU's McCracken Hall. Both firms intend to relocate next year when Southwest Michigan First builds a permanent site for the Innovation Center at WMU's Business Technology and Research Park.

Local senior executive Peter Croden, who has more than 30 years of pharmaceutical management experience with the former Upjohn Company (now Pharmacia Corp.), serves as NephRx's chief executive officer.

Southwest Michigan First played matchmaker at its January 2001 Investing In Innovation Forum. When the biotech start-up presented at the forum, its primary need was an experienced CEO with proven entrepreneurial and business development skills in the life science industry.

NephRx Corp. is a biotechnology company dedicated to the discovery and development of therapeutic products for the treatment of kidney failure/disease and diseases of the gastrointestinal tract, i.e. Crohn's Disease, and Ulcerative Colitis. Its founding scientist, F. Gary Toback, M.D., Ph.D, is a University of Chicago nephrologist.

The company also marks ARCH Development Fund's first major investment in this market. The venture fund developed in June 2001 with local investors focuses in growing early stage technology companies in the Midwest, with a concentration in the southwest Michigan region.

"As a technology for the treatment of an unmet medical need, NephRx's biotech discovery would have a potential of more than a billion dollars in annual sales," said NephRx CEO Peter Croden. "NephRx is another example of how Kalamazoo's Technology Initiative is creating economic activity for Michigan," said Barry Broome,

Southwest Michigan First CEO and executive director Barry Broome said NephRx's location is an important step for southwestern Michigan's economic future. "This project represents a step closer to the community's dedication to commercialize technologies discovered elsewhere and will facilitate the creation of new high-tech companies that have real benefits for human health."

Croden said the company will start off with four to six scientists in the labs. He said he foresees projected growth in the horizon, as the company I already in negotiation with established pharmaceutical companies in co-development projects.

"NephRx is the kind of company the University envisions will be a part of the Innovation Center and the WMU Business Technology Park," said Robert Miller, WMU associated vice president of community outreach. "We value such partnerships with our corporate citizens to position southwestern Michigan as a competitive region for economic growth."

The establishments of a new venture fund with ARCH Development Partners and Esperion Therapeutics' Chemistry Research Unit at the Innovation Center are recent milestones that mark Kalamazoo's commitment to the state's Michigan Life Science Corridor initiative.

Media contact: Cheryl Roland, 616 387-8400, cheryl.roland@wmich.edu

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