LAWRENCE — There’s no room left at the inn. Or in this case, the incubator.
Global drug discovery company Ligand Pharmaceuticals Incorporated has signed a lease with the Bioscience & Technology Business Center at the University of Kansas (BTBC at KU) Main Facility to occupy the building’s last remaining space. The move brings the BTBC Main Facility to 100 percent occupancy a year-and-a-half after it opened its doors in summer 2010.
Ligand will bring two employees to the facility, though the number could grow later this year. Activities will include operations and research and development.
Ligand becomes the ninth tenant in the Main Facility, located on KU’s west campus, and the 15th tenant in the statewide BTBC at KU system, which comprises three buildings: the Main Facility, the Expansion Facility at 4950 Research Parkway in Lawrence, and the KUMC Facility in Kansas City, Kan.
“It’s been just a year-and-a-half since we cut the ribbon on the BTBC,” said Matthew McClorey, president of the BTBC at KU system, “and here we are today announcing that the Main Facility is completely full. To reach 100 percent occupancy – and to do so with great companies like Ligand – is a tribute to the BTBC as a model for creating businesses. This is exactly what we envisioned when we created the BTBC: companies coming here to create high-tech, high-paying jobs and to collaborate with KU researchers.”
Ligand is no stranger to KU research. In January 2011, the company acquired Lenexa-based CyDex Pharmaceuticals, a startup created in 1993 to commercialize a KU drug delivery technology now known globally as Captisol. Originally invented in the labs of KU researcher and entrepreneur Dr. Valentino Stella, Captisol is a novel and patented technology that interacts with pharmaceutical products to improve their solubility and stability.
“It’s fitting – and serendipitous, really – that the company that gets the BTBC Main Facility to 100 percent occupancy is directly tied to KU pharmaceutical research and technologies,” said Julie Goonewardene, associate vice chancellor for innovation and entrepreneurship and president of KU’s Center for Technology Commercialization. “One of the reasons the BTBC is so special is that it’s located right on the KU campus. Companies choose the BTBC knowing they can be next door to some of the world’s best researchers and scientists.”
Ligand will expand work with various KU departments, including the Biotechnology Innovation & Optimization Center, and maintain various Kansas City-area partnerships established over the years.
“We are pleased to be moving into the state-of-the-art facilities at the BTBC, here on the campus that was the birthplace of our Captisol technology,” said Matthew W. Foehr, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Ligand. “The people at the BTBC have been terrific to work with and have been very responsive to all of our needs. We are proud to now have part of our R&D and operations functions established at such a distinguished university here in the heartland of America. KU has a rich heritage of major advancements in the pharmaceutical field, and we see significant benefits to our current and future business by having a presence here on campus, and to be surrounded by other innovative companies in the greater K.C. metro area.
“In addition,” Foehr said, “being in a building with other bioscience- and technology-based tenants opens the door to collaborations that wouldn’t necessarily happen somewhere else. Being in the same building as companies like Argenta, Gyrasol, Garmin and Assurant is really exciting to us. Anytime you get people like that together, you have a melting pot of innovation and entrepreneurial spirit. That’s one of the reasons the BTBC is so special.”
The BTBC Main Facility opened in summer 2010 and was formally dedicated Oct. 8, 2010. The $7.25 million building was the result of a partnership between the Lawrence-Douglas County Biosciences Authority, the Lawrence Regional Technology Center, the Kansas Bioscience Authority, the City of Lawrence, Douglas County, KU, the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce and KU Endowment. Since then, the LRTC, LDCBA and BTBC have merged to form a single entity known as the BTBC.
The BTBC at KU provides state-of-the-art wet lab and office space, access to KU resources and research expertise, and business support services such as capital-raising and consulting services. The BTBC system’s three buildings combine for nearly 70,000 square feet of office and lab space. Below are the buildings’ occupancy data.
BTBC Main Facility
(64 employees – 100 percent full)
• 360 Energy Engineers – engineering and energy management
• Argenta –animal health
• Assurant – insurance products and services
• BrightEHR – electronic health records
• Garmin – navigation and communication devices
• Gyrasol – drug development
• Ligand – drug delivery and development
• Propylon –software systems for state legislatures
• Sunlite Science and Technology – specialty LED products
BTBC Expansion Facility
(8 employees – 36 percent full)
• CritiTech – drug delivery
• Mencuro – drug development
(13 employees – 53 percent full)
• Aptakon – next-generation antibody substitutes
• Orbis Biosciences – controlled-release delivery technology
• OsteoGeneX – orally administered therapeutics
• EON Labs – plasma reactor technology