MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The West Virginia University Innovation Corporation (WVUIC) announced today (March 20) that three new science and technology tenants – California-based GATC Health Corp and Yunigen, LLC, and Morgantown-based ExesaLibero Pharma – will be leasing space in the Chestnut Ridge Road facility.
WVU and the West Virginia University Health System, commonly branded as WVU Medicine, officially took ownership of the 1.1 million square foot property in March 2022 and have been handling daily operations of the facility since. It previously served as the Mylan pharmaceutical manufacturing facility. The Innovation Corporation announced Hope Gas as its first tenant in August.
“We are very excited to have three innovative companies joining us at the Innovation Corporation as we continue to build a leading-edge science and technology hub that benefits the broader community,” Stacey K. Armstrong, president of the WVU Innovation Corporation, said. “These new partners share our vision of establishing collaborative technology innovation and will be excellent research and development partners with the Health System, University, and State of West Virginia.”
ExesaLibero Pharma, which was formed to complete preclinical toxicology and efficacy studies on a small molecule drug designed to control excess bone erosion associated with rheumatoid arthritis, will lease 1,034 square feet of laboratory space for drug development.
“The laboratory facilities at the WVUIC are ideal for the continuation of the work we started on the WVU Health Sciences campus,” John Barnett, Ph.D., president and chief scientific officer of ExesaLibero and professor and chair of the WVU School of Medicine Department of Microbiology, Immunology, and Cell Biology, said. “We look forward to moving into these facilities.”
GATC Health, a technology company “revolutionizing drug discovery and disease prediction using artificial intelligence (AI),” will lease more than 7,000 square feet of lab and office space to establish an AI hub to develop safer and more effective medicines with greater efficiency.
Tyrone Lam, GATC chief operating officer, said Appalachia is the best place to continue development of two of the drugs GATC is working on – one for treating PTSD and the other to treat fentanyl addiction – as they have the potential to have the greatest impact in the region. The space within the WVUIC, he said, “is almost turnkey and will help us bring these important treatments to people sooner.”
But, the one thing that stood out to the GATC team, was the “can-do spirit” of the WVUIC, WVU Medicine, and WVU leadership.
“There is no ‘no’ or ‘not now,’ it’s ‘how do we get this done?” he said. “There’s a genuine curiosity and desire to establish a true center of innovation to develop better medicines. We’ve been welcomed with open arms.”
Yunigen, a pharma company with a vision of making a difference in drug discovery, development, and commercialization, will lease 25,000 square feet of space with plans for expansion to manufacture rapid dissolvable Hydroxyurea tablets in 100 mg and 500 mg for pediatric sickle cell anemia patients in Africa. Its next phase is to manufacture high quality and affordable branded generic drugs in the U.S.
Charles E. Otieno, M.D., managing partner and chief medical officer of Yunigen, said the company’s two-year search for a manufacturing location took them to several states, including Connecticut, New York, Minnesota, Ohio, Missouri, Pennsylvania, and North and South Carolina. The WVUIC property, unlike the others they toured, had “all the bells and whistles.”
“This is what we were looking for because WVU preserved the intended use of the facility,” he said. “This has the potential for Morgantown to make its mark on emerging markets and will change the course of this disease. It will be a symbol of pride.”
For more information about the WVU Innovation Corporation, visit Innovation.WVU.edu.