MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Three new companies have pledged to call the West Virginia University Innovation Corporation on Chestnut Ridge Road home.
WVU Innovation Corporation president Stacey Armstrong reports Yunigen LLC, GATC Health, and ExesaLibero Pharma will join Hope Gas, Inc. in the former 1.1 million square foot Mylan Pharmaceutical/Viatris location.
“One of the really great things about being in this ecosystem that we have in West Virginia is that we haven’t yet had to go look for people,” Armstrong said. “I have a list of people still to work through who have interest.”
Armstrong said they look for companies that have an economically viable concept but aren’t yet ready to move onto the open market. The massive amount of space and mission of advancing science, math, engineering, and medicine allow them to be an advanced incubator of sorts.
“Our niche really is in that space between research and commercialization,” Armstrong said. “We have space, so how do we help people grow to a certain point, and if they do really, really well, we help them find other places in West Virginia where they can build a big plant of their own.”
Yunigen LLC will use 25,000 square feet, with plans for expansion to manufacture 100 mg and 500 mg doses of a drug to treat pediatric sickle cell anemia in Africa. Before signing a lease in Morgantown, the company looked at locations in New York, Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut.
“They want to build it out in the United States and then potentially use it in Africa because it is a huge disease in that country—their country of origin,” Armstrong said.
According to information from GATC Health, it costs about $2.6 billion on average to get a drug to market. This artificial intelligence company will use about 7,000 square feet to continue the development of drugs to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and fentanyl addiction.
The company uses a purpose-built system that mimics human biology and reduces the cost and risk of development.
“Their goal is to pull all this information together and create algorithms to help improve health outcomes,” Armstrong said. “So, they’re very interested in West Virginia and some of the opportunities to improve care for our communities.”
ExesaLibero Pharma is a company developed by WVU researcher, John Barnett, Ph.D., that is developing a small molecule drug to treat bone erosion in people suffering from rheumatoid arthritis. Barnett will continue working on that compound in a little more than 1,000 square feet.
“What I love about it is that it is someone from here at WVU, and now we have space for it,” Armstrong said. “Universities have a lot of great researchers, and they have a lot of great students, but what they don’t have is space.”