In Part Two of this series, Dr. Lindemann highlights some of the life science companies which are already operating in Wyoming.
Now, in the third and final installment, Dr. Lindemann summarizes some of the life science companies already operating in the state of Wyoming.
Existing Life Science Companies in Wyoming
The life science industry uses information and materials derived from biology and chemistry to produce products. Any company employing a process that uses cells like yeast or bacteria to produce products such as cheese, raised bread, yogurt or alcohol is a life science company.
With this as a working definition, Wyoming has had life science companies for a long time. Before Wyoming was a territory, life science companies existed. The Egyptians made mead, a fermented alcoholic drink from honey and the Romans made wine while the Germanic tribes made beer. Breads, yogurt, and cheeses made throughout the world are ancient methods to convert and store biological materials through cellular processes.
Therefore, Wyoming has a life science industry using both ancient technologies as well as a life science industry using modern technologies. Ancient life science technologies utilized in Wyoming are the breweries, bakeries as well as the distilleries located within the state. Those companies using modern technology and knowledge are rare.
The modern life science companies fall into four groups: medical devices, pharmaceuticals, bio-services, and agricultural biotechnology.
Located in Casper, McGinley Innovations LLC, founded by Dr. McGinley MD PhD, a local radiologist has several innovations for treatment of sports related injuries and muscle-skeletal syndromes. The newest device is an innovation designed to prevent orthopedic screws from penetrating through the opposite side of the bone during orthopedic surgery. Currently, the device is at the alpha prototype stage.
Light Speed Biodetection, Inc., a subsidiary of Softray, Inc., of Laramie, is developing an imaging system to identify pathogens in donated platelets faster to increase the usable shelf life of the platelets by decreasing assay time and time to shelf. Based on research from the lab of Dr. Paul Johnson (UW Astronomy Department), the device is ready for commercialization.
The largest pharmaceutical company in Wyoming is Cody Labs, which extracts active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) directly from plants for finished formulation of ingredients for use in the manufacturing of generic medical products. The lab employs 100 people and is expanding the facilities and workforce an additional 23 positions by the end of 2014.
Southwest of Sheridan is the town of Big Horn, home to a virtual pharmaceutical company, FPR Pharma LLC. The company has a portfolio of novel therapeutic and cosmetic peptides. Within the research and patent portfolios resides information for several molecules demonstrating anti-inflammatory activity.
The company has moved the lead molecule far enough down the drug development pathway and is in discussions for a major investment and licensing agreement with a major pharmaceutical.
Dr. Don Jarvis’s faculty research laboratory at the University of Wyoming, the University of Wyoming and the Wyoming Technology Business Center (WTBC) has spun out GlycoBac LLC, a company leveraging Dr. Jarvis’s research and patents in the field of mammalian glycosylation.
Proper mammalian glycosylation expressed on manufactured therapeutic proteins improves biological activity and bioavailability of the proteins. Currently, the company is working to improve the existing technology as well as identify strategic partners and clients.
Research from the University of Wyoming Chemical Engineering Department’s laboratory of Professor Maciej Radosz and Graduate student Zachary Tyrrell have developed a novel system using supercritical methods to load increased quantities of drugs into micelles.
Ingredients for the micelles are FDA approved, and modifications to target cancer cells are available, thereby effectively increasing drug delivery through proper targeting and increased quantity of drug delivered.
The effectiveness of the supercritical method to form and load micelles is well researched and documented. The path forward for this young company is to provide devices and services to allow the increased efficiency of delivering approved cancer drugs to cancer cells through high loading of drugs into micelles that specifically target cancer cells.
PlanktOMICS algae bioservices LLC, is a spinout from the Department of Plant Sciences (University of Wyoming) based on the research of Dr. Stephan Herbert and Levi Lowder. A services company for the growing field of algae biotechnology is positioned to assist in the selection and/or genetic modification of algae species for research and commercial applications. Additional services included storage, maintenance and performance analysis of cultivars.
Based on the concepts of two UW graduate students, Bright Agro-Tech LLC, is a company with a novel method for growing agriculturally important crops (except root crops) in a vertical system.
The system is significant for the ability to increase the capacity and yield of crops over the existing norm of horizontal cultivation methods with the added feature of being able to bring fresh produce directly to the customer. Products include systems for backyard gardeners, as well as systems for commercial produce providers and ongoing sales of replacement parts.
Détente Genetics LLC, located in Sheridan, is a DNA barcoding company for livestock and companion animals. The company utilizes existing technology and selected Single Nucleotide Polyphorisms (SNPs) in a panel format to provide unique DNA barcodes for individual animals.
In the case of the meat industry (beef, pork, and lamb/mutton) these unique barcodes allow clients to follow product (carcasses and packaged meat) through the value chain, providing clients a method and process of traceability from farm to fork, linking the cut of meat to the original animal through the entire value chain.
An additional application of the technology is as a tool for making informative decisions based on the linkage of performance data to genetics for selective breeding to improve market traits of the animals from commercial herds as well as establishing full blood and pure breed lines with commercially desirable traits. The system provides a near incorruptible method to identify animals. It is difficult to falsify a genetic sample but it is easy to remove a microchip or obscure a brand or a tattoo as well as dye markings to change the appearance of the animal.
Astec Global is a Sheridan based company focusing on applying coatings to seeds to ensure uniformity of seed size to allow for even spacing of seeds during planting, thus providing better efficiency of planting across the entire field.
Additionally, the company has special applications of the technology including limited germination and fungicide application as well as novel labeling method. The results are pre-germinated seeds of uniform size and marked to prevent counterfeiting.
Future Wyoming Life Science Companies
Wyoming has the building blocks to form life science companies and has several early stage life science companies. The growth and success of these companies is an ongoing struggle as it is for all businesses. However, life science companies will find fertile soil in Wyoming for germination, growth and maturation. The state has junior colleges and the University of Wyoming from which to source talent and patents for the establishment of new life science companies. The business friendly status of Wyoming and the cost of living as well as the quality of life will appeal to the many talented people that needs must be imported for the success of life science companies.