WMU Foundation purchases Pfizer research facility
Dec. 9, 2005
KALAMAZOO--A state-of-the-art Pfizer Inc. research facility in downtown Kalamazoo will soon become a site for Western Michigan University to expand its research portfolio and a magnet to attract additional private-sector development in the life sciences.
Building 126, on East Lovell Street in downtown Kalamazoo, will be purchased by the WMU Foundation for $3.8 million. The foundation, which receives private donor funds on behalf of the University, will make the facility available to the University to provide much-needed room for WMU scientists and a site where life science firms can lease research space.
Built by the Upjohn Co. in 1964, the 160,000-square-foot building currently houses unused laboratory space, maintenance and other offices, and a compound library in the process of being relocated to other Pfizer research sites. The building underwent a $35 million upgrade, completed in 2002. Pfizer will continue to use the facility through 2006.
"Pfizer is pleased to reach this agreement with WMU that will strengthen the educational and biomedical heart of the community," said Antoon Brusselmans, vice president for Pfizer Global Manufacturing in the Midwest and chairman of the company's Kalamazoo Site Leadership Team. "Pfizer and WMU share a vision as champions of innovation and biomedical research. This agreement solidifies that partnership to the benefit of students, scientists, patients and the community."
Acquisition of the building by the foundation will allow the University to provide needed research room for its scientists and student research assistants as well as a site that can be used to enhance WMU's efforts with the Kalamazoo community to expand the area's growing presence as a center for biosciences commercialization and innovation. The facility will be used purely for research and will not include classroom space.
"This is an agreement that will pay dividends to the University and the community for years to come," said WMU President Judith I. Bailey. "Building 126 has been newly renovated specifically for the most sophisticated levels of biomedical research, and it is rare for any university's researchers to have use of laboratory space of this caliber. We would not be able to construct even a fraction of the space at the price for which Pfizer has generously agreed to transfer this to the WMU Foundation."
Bailey said the building will give the University a long-sought downtown Kalamazoo presence and will provide WMU's research faculty an opportunity to expand its capabilities and work in proximity to Pfizer's downtown campus and Bronson Methodist Hospital. And since the University will not occupy the entire building, WMU will work with Southwest Michigan First to attract companies for whom laboratory space is a critical need. Those could include growing companies already supported by WMU's Biosciences Research and Commercialization Center as well as new firms hoping to move into the area to become part of Kalamazoo's life-sciences neighborhood.
"This really is the perfect next step in our efforts to both expand key research areas at the University and promote Kalamazoo as a place that welcomes and encourages innovation and growth in the life sciences," Bailey said.
Kalamazoo Mayor Hannah McKinney said the development will be a major asset to both the future of the downtown and the regional vision of Kalamazoo as a center for the life sciences.
"We've long wanted a WMU presence downtown and this development accomplishes that goal in a significant way," McKinney said. "Not only will this boost the vitality of our downtown life sciences neighborhood, but it gives us a new platform to build upon while we work as a community toward regional transformation."
In 2003, with $10 million in support from the Michigan Legislature, WMU launched its BRCC--Biosciences Research and Commercialization Center--to tap the area's expertise and long history in life sciences development and encourage collaboration with University life science researchers. The BRCC has been the recipient of previous support from Pfizer in the form of cash and equipment donations.
The University, working in tandem with local economic developers, also constructed the Business Technology and Research Park on WMU's Parkview Campus in Kalamazoo that is home to a number of life sciences firms, including a dozen companies in the Southwest Michigan Innovation Center, a life sciences business incubator located at that park. The center is home to nine startup firms supported by the BRCC, several of which have been rapidly growing.
Kalamazoo hosts key functions for Pfizer's global research operations Worldwide Safety Sciences, which tests compounds to gauge their safety prior to use in humans; and Pharmacokinetics, Dynamics & Metabolism, which determines how a compound is absorbed, circulated and eliminated by the body. Recently, the company selected those local groups to be responsible for testing all Pfizer compounds that enter late-stage development. In addition, Veterinary Medicine R&D, based in Richland Township, operates in lab space downtown.
Currently, Pfizer is in the midst of a $74 million upgrade to its research capabilities at the downtown campus. The investment includes improving existing laboratories and building new labs and offices in previously unfinished areas.
Pfizer Inc discovers, develops, manufactures and markets leading prescription medicines for humans and animals and many of the world's best-known consumer brands.
WMU is one of Michigan's four major research universities and one of just 102 public universities in the nation to be grouped by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching in its top grouping--"Doctoral Research Universities-Extensive." Founded in 1903, it enrolls more than 26,000 students, about 20 percent of them at the graduate level.
Media contact: Matt Kurz, (269) 387-8400, email@example.com