Emiliem and Kalexsyn Partners in Drug Discovery

KALAMAZOO -- Drawn by a talent pool, local connections and startup services, a West Coast drug-development firm has joined the mix at Kalamazoo's life-sciences incubator. Emiliem Inc., based in Emeryville, Calif., is setting up a research-and-development operation at the Southwest Michigan Innovation Center, where it plans to employ former Pfizer Inc. scientists to help it discover and bring to market specialized cancer treatments. ``It's really quite an unusual situation where you can access that kind of talent,'' Dale Johnson, president and chief executive officer of Emiliem, said of laid-off Pfizer workers in Michigan, whom he said he's interviewing for research positions with his company. Pfizer announced in January that it would close its Ann Arbor R&D operations, laying off about 2,100 workers. About 250 in Kalamazoo will lose their jobs next year as part of Pfizer's restructuring. Emiliem expects to hire about 10 new employees in the next one to two years, Johnson said. Johnson, who scouted sites not only in Michigan but also in other states and countries, said the incubator in Western Michigan University's Business Technology and Research Park sealed the deal for his small but growing company. ``We explored all over the state and found that the Kalamazoo site was the best of all of them,'' he said. ``The innovation center is much farther along than at any of those other places,'' he said of other Michigan incubators. The company focused on Michigan because it has drug-development collaborations with scientists at Wayne State University and at the Van Andel Institute, a Grand Rapids cancer-research facility. It also contracts work with Innovation Center tenant Kalexsyn Inc., which is preparing to relocate into a new 20,000-square-foot laboratory in the business park next month. With Emiliem, the Innovation Center now has 11 tenant companies and is about 85 percent occupied, said Sandra Cochrane, chief operating officer of the incubator. Cochrane said the center, which has developed a strong network that supports startup firms, is lucky to have Emiliem. ``We recognized that this company, with their connections, could have gone anywhere,'' she said.