WMU News

Biotech executive takes top BRCC post

Oct. 27, 2004

KALAMAZOO--An executive with more than 25 years of experience managing both established life science firms and biotech startups has signed on to lead Western Michigan University's Biosciences Research and Commercialization Center.

Dr. Charles F. Nawrot (NAH-rot), will leave his position as chief executive officer of Theracyte Inc. of Irvine, Calif., to become the executive director of the BRCC. His appointment is effective Oct. 11.

"I'm particularly pleased that Chuck has agreed to join the BRCC early in its existence," says Don Parfet, founding principal of the Apjohn Group LLC and chairperson of the BRCC Governing Board of Directors. "Chuck shares the same vision of the BRCC as the governing board and everyone involved in the center's founding. He brings to Kalamazoo a wealth of relevant experience and knowledge that will serve us well for years to come."

Nawrot established Theracyte, a cell therapy firm, in 1999 with $2 million of private investment capital. Under his leadership, the company has developed research collaborations with more than 30 potential business partners. Theracyte is Nawrot's second life sciences startup. From 1987 to 1989, he was CEO of Tektagen Inc., a pharmaceutical testing facility he co-founded.

His industry leadership positions also include research and management posts with Abbott Laboratories in Chicago; Cooper Biomedical Inc. and Centocor Inc. in Malvern, Pa.; and Baxter Healthcare Corp. in Deerfield, Ill., where he served for six years as vice president for business development in the immunotherapy division. He also spent four years as a biotech consultant, advising companies in the areas of technology assessment, business planning and early-stage financing.

Nawrot earned a bachelor's degree in chemistry from St. Mary's College in Winona, Minn., in 1965 and a doctoral degree in biochemistry from Northwestern University in 1969.

"Our search committee set some very high standards for whoever we hired as the executive director of the BRCC" says Dr. Jack Luderer, WMU vice president for research who took part in the search. "We wanted an exemplary Ph.D. or M.D. scientist with management experience who had worked in both large pharmaceutical operations like Pfizer, as well as small start-up companies. The BRCC requires this breadth of experience, and it's not easy to find. We attracted more than 40 applicants from around the country and quite honestly, Dr. Nawrot was our first choice. We were able to get him out of California just in time for winter in Kalamazoo."

The search committee was led by Dr. Trudy Verser, associate dean of WMU's Haworth College of Business. In addition to Luderer, members of the committee included Parfet; Dr. Robert Gadwood, CEO of Kalexsyn Inc.; Dr. Douglas Morton, CEO of the Southwest Michigan Innovation Center, and Dr. Alexander Enyedi, chairperson of the WMU Department of Biological Sciences.

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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