By Kevan Goff-Parker
Copyright © 2019 The Oklahoman
Greater Oklahoma City Chamber Manager of Innovation and Entrepreneurship Evan Fay said he believes some people may be caught off-guard by Oklahoma’s growing bioscience prowess.
He made his remarks during the final hours Thursday of the Bio International Conference in Philadelphia as the state’s more than 40 OKBio delegates, which included researchers, foundation and university representatives and bioscience and investment companies, continued to meet in face-to-face meetings with representatives from around the world.
“We’re creating clusters around companies like bioscience, aerospace and defense, energy, and we have a really robust economy,” Fay said. “There’s a lot more activity, whether it’s venture capital investments, accelerator and incubator programs or things that make it easier for entrepreneurs to grow. … It catches a lot of people who aren’t familiar with Oklahoma off-guard that there’s so much activity happening here.”
The chamber and OKBio delegates are working together to change any misconceptions by those unfamiliar with Oklahoma’s growing economic diversity and progress. He said bioscience is another growing economic segment that demonstrates the state employs much more than just blue-collar workers or is focused strictly on gas and oil production.
He said the $665 million acquisition of Oklahoma City-based Selexys Pharmaceuticals Corp., by Novartis AG in 2016, is a good example of how a privately held biopharmaceutical company can demand global attention for its research and design capabilities.
“Oklahomans tend to roll up their sleeves, and they want to help each other. And not by operating in a silo,” Fay said. “It’s a good sharing economy here, and a lot of the work done is behind the scenes in partnership with others, realizing that you can’t do it alone.
“So we really like to take on that mindset as economic developers in looping together all the right partners, whether that’s i2E, the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology (OCAST) or the universities.
“Everyone has a role in lifting up the bioscience community, whether it is on the education side, workforce-development side or mentorship.”
Mohan Purushothaman, Ph.D., president and CEO of Progentec Diagnostics Inc., has been working in the pharmaceutical business for many years and said he appreciates his company’s partnerships with Oklahoma-based researchers, bioscience professionals and foundations.
“The company is focused on Lupus. … We license the technology from the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation, and we’ve been working with OMRF very closely to create something that can really be taken out to the market and provide value to a lot of patients,” Purushothaman said. “We’ve made some tremendous progress and believe we have a very unique (diagnostic testing) solution that can bring some significant value.
“It’s been great so far and we look forward to some exciting solutions to come out of our company.”
Lonnie Barish is the vice president of Business Development and Marketing for Cytovance Biologics, an Oklahoma-based contract biopharmacological manufacturing company that was originally founded to treat Pompe disease, a rare neuromuscular disorder.
“The company has been intimately involved since its early days in drug research and drug development,” Barish said. “We’ve grown quite substantially within the last couple of years supporting all sorts of research on the biologics side. This trade show has turned out to be quite successful for us. … It is still so much better to do business face-to-face and to meet the people you are working with and further those relationships as well.”
He said Cytovance Biologics is growing at about a “40% clip year after year” and is expanding its employee base, while looking into possibly expanding into gene therapy treatment areas with potential new services by this fall.