By Scott Meacham
Copyright © 2019 The Oklahoman
Sean and Scott Bauman, CEO and chief operating officer of biotechnology company IMMY, literally grew up in the family business.
“There isn’t a job that my brother and I haven’t done,” Sean said, “from sweeping the floor to putting together bulk mailings, whatever needed to be done, we’ve done. Our whole family was involved in the business.”
IMMY manufactures, markets and distributes innovative lines of diagnostic tests and reagents (substances used in chemical analysis). Stan Bauman, father of Scott and Sean, founded the company in 1979.
With a Ph.D. in microbiology and immunology, Stan was teaching at the University of Kentucky when his own father passed away. Stan decided to move back to Oklahoma to be closer to family (he grew up in Norman) and to start a business.
There was some family land near Goldsby with a tractor and a metal barn that wasn’t being used. Stan, who had focused on mycology (the study of fungi), didn’t need the tractor, but he did use the barn, carving out a 15-foot square space where he went to work developing diagnostic tests for life-threatening fungal infections.
At the time, the three world leaders in fungal work were Tulane University, Duke University and the University of Oklahoma. Even with Oklahoma being at the epicenter of fungal science, the Oklahoma State Department of Health (using reagents manufactured by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)) was the only source for testing and diagnosing patients with fungal infections.
Stan Bauman started working closely with CDC.
“With CDC’s reagents and his know-how, he started manufacturing tests,” Sean said. “He sold products that he made out of the barn for the first 15 to 20 years of the company.”
The 40-year history of IMMY is the story of moving diagnostics closer and closer to the patient, with a global focus on saving lives through affordable diagnostics.
“We have life scientists working here developing next-generation diagnostic tests,” Sean said.
With computer programmers, engineers working on circuitry for artificial intelligence, IMMY’s approach is not traditional. With more than 100 products in a marketplace than spans 70 countries, Sean and Scott are taking the firm that their parents built to new heights.
“We are building a healthcare platform to further our mission of saving lives one diagnostic at a time,” Sean said. “Historically, diagnostics tests have been used by highly trained lab scientists. How do we get a lay worker in rural Tanzania the same quality of testing for fungal meningitis that occurs at the National Institutes of Health? That’s at the heart of what we do.”
The World Health Organization has recommended IMMY’s product for treating fungal meningitis; it is the standard in more than 30 countries.
All of this from the heart and grit of an Oklahoma entrepreneur who returned to Oklahoma and set up shop in a metal barn.
There are dozens of innovators and entrepreneurs in life science and biotechnology across Oklahoma. Just imagine what could develop with increased focus and support.
Scott Meacham is president and CEO of i2E Inc., a nonprofit corporation that mentors many of the state’s technology-based startup companies. i2E receives state appropriations from the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology. Meacham can be reached at [email protected].