The new players in life sciences: A look at five local companies

Monday, January 30, 2017

Source: The Buffalo News

The region has made a major investment in the life-sciences sector over the past 15 years. Governors going back to George E. Pataki have tried to use taxpayer dollars to leverage medical research conducted in Buffalo Niagara to create jobs and remake the local economy.

The Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus is a focus of those efforts. The campus hosts University at Buffalo research centers, Roswell Park Cancer Institute and business incubators.

“I think there’s a natural synergy with everything that’s happening in the life-sciences community,” said Dr. Irfan Khan, founder and chief medical officer of Circuit Clinical, a Buffalo-based startup.

Employment in the life sciences grew by 1.8 percent in 2016, to 6,541 jobs, according to a report prepared on behalf of Invest Buffalo Niagara. That’s below the 2.5 percent gain nationally for the industry last year. The life-sciences jobs make up about 1 percent of the 707,700 jobs in Western New York as of November, state Labor Department figures show.

Here’s a snapshot of five life-sciences companies at different stages of their development.

Circuit Clinical

  • Address: 77 Goodell St.
  • Founded: 2014
  • Description: The company seeks to make it easier for patients to enroll in and stay in clinical trials.
  • Employees: 14
  • Where they are now: As part of its agreement with the Buffalo Institute for Genomics and Data Analytics, or BIG, Circuit Clinical agreed to create 100 jobs, ranging from nurses to software technicians, over five years, and will receive $1.1 million in funding.
  • The year ahead: Dr. Irfan Khan, founder and chief medical officer, said the company should have 25 workers by the end of 2017. The company said it has nearly 40 clinical studies in the pipeline.

Disease Diagnostic Group

  • Address: 640 and 701 Ellicott streets (other sites in Ohio, Massachusetts and England)
  • Founded: 2014
  • Description: Builds a battery-powered device that uses magnets and lasers to detect malaria in a patient’s blood.
  • Employees: 3 full-time
  • Where they are now: The founders moved to Buffalo last year after winning $500,000 in the 2015 edition of the 43North contest. Disease Diagnostic Group set up shop in incubator and lab space on the Medical Campus and began making connections with suppliers and with UB researchers, said John Lewandowski, the group’s CEO.
  • The year ahead: Lewandowski said the company is exploring the possibility of manufacturing its device here. The company is in its early stages but has sent a prototype of the device for testing. DDG also plans to expand into testing for other diseases beside malaria.

Garwood Medical Devices

  • Address: 77 Goodell St.
  • Founded: 2014
  • Description: The company has three main products: bandages to treat chronic wounds, devices to control infections in implants and a device to regenerate bone.
  • Employees: 5 full-time
  • Where they are now: Garwood got a jump-start in 2016 through a partnership with UB’s BIG research consortium. The company promises to create 40 jobs over five years and will receive $1.48 million in investment over that time. The company received patents in 2016 on two of its products, said Garwood co-founder Wayne Bacon.
  • The year ahead: The bandages stimulate chronic wounds to encourage healing. Eventually, they will have biometric sensors inside. The first versions of the bandages, which should be available in prototype and in the hands of federal regulators by early 2018, won’t have the electronics. The first, basic version of the device that controls post-surgical infections on implants also should be in regulators’ hands by early 2018.

ONY Inc.

  • Address: 1576 Sweet Home Road, Amherst
  • Founded: 1985
  • Description: ONY makes Infasurf, a drug given to premature infants to help them breathe.
  • Employees: 42
  • Where they are now: ONY is embarking on an ambitious growth strategy even as the company in 2016 began to transition to new ownership. ONY’s chairman and chief medical officer, Dr. Edmund A. Egan, started working with a partner, Randy Burkard, on a plan that will see Burkard take a controlling ownership stake by 2019.
  • The year ahead: The company is developing a new drug, also aimed at the premature infant market, and plans to begin clinical trials in preemies in 2017.

ZeptoMetrix

  • Address: 847, 872 and 878 Main streets, Buffalo, and a site in Massachusetts
  • Founded: 1999
  • Description: The company specializes in products and services for the global infectious disease diagnostic market.
  • Employees: 130
  • Where they are now: Buffalo serves as headquarters, research and development and bulk manufacturing for ZeptoMetrix. Products are shipped to a facility in Massachusetts for finished manufacturing and distribution.
  • The year ahead: The company is planning to hire 10 workers between Buffalo and Massachusetts. ZeptoMetrix is moving into additional space in Massachusetts in March and will start looking for more lab space on the Medical Campus in Buffalo near the end of 2017, said Gregory Chiklis, the president and CEO.

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