By Scott Meacham
Oklahoma companies change people’s health and their lives.
In a recent conversation, an associate described Dr. Steve Prescott’s impact on Oklahoma’s bioscience economy as “standing on the shoulders of a giant.” Indeed, as the leader of the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation (OMRF), Steve was a visionary who got things done.
However, Steve would be the first one to say that Oklahoma’s cadre of talented researchers and entrepreneurs and our density of research institutions of international renown, give visionaries and innovators in the bioscience industry an impressive playing field.
The Oklahoma Center for Advancement of Science and Technology (OCAST) is the state’s go-to source for research funding for both proof-of-concept and accelerated projects. The Health Research program competitively awards research funding for one-to-three-year basic research projects related to human health. These grants are so important because they create opportunities for researchers to gain expertise and produce data for larger grants.
For the past twenty-two years, i2E and its investment arm, i2E Management Company (IMCI), have played a major role in funding Oklahoma researchers and entrepreneurs by investing more than $34 million in Oklahoma bioscience companies. Life science comprises comprise 27 percent of our total clients and nearly one-third of our investment portfolio.
When research becomes commercialized solutions, Oklahoma companies change people’s health and their lives. They pivot in-the-moment to respond to the pandemic. They tackle long-standing challenges. They improve the lives of patients with incurable disease.
Making a Difference
Early in the pandemic, MaxQ Research, a young Stillwater company that creates sophisticated packaging systems especially designed to hold and transfer refrigerated, controlled room temperature or frozen biological materials, quickly pivoted to help protect healthcare personal and first responders.
MaxQ developed and launched the industry’s first fully validated CDC-compliant vaccine coolers with integrated monitoring to support last minute distribution of vaccines. The company launched a turnkey validated system to support transport of convalescent plasma for COVID-19 patients, and implemented a new series of reusable shippers for safe transport of diagnostic specimens, including COVID-19 swabs.
Simergent, is an Oklahoma City startup, close to launching its Archimedes peritoneal dialysis device. Peritoneal dialysis is a form of dialysis that is performed without needles and without extracting blood. Instead, a device delivers a drug solution through a port. This contrasts sharply with traditional hemodialysis in which blood is extracted and cleaned, requiring patients to travel to a dialysis clinic and sit through hours of dialysis treatment weekly.
Built on research conducted by OMRF, Progentec Diagnosis released a lupus diagnostic test that accurately predicts previously unpredictable lupus flares. When patients and their medical providers know a lupus flare up is coming, Progentec’s comprehensive care management solution can help provide relief for those flare periods of inflammation and pain.
These are just three of Oklahoma’s dozens of startups in the bioscience industry. Each company’s story is compelling — but when you consider the whole and then add in the scientific institutions that produce the research that underlies Oklahoma’s life science ventures, it is breathtaking, and something that every Oklahoman can recognize and understand. Why? Because if there is one thing we all have in common, it is the desire for our own good health, and the health of those we care about.
Scott Meacham CEO of i2E Inc., a nonprofit corporation that mentors many of the state’s technology-based startup companies. i2E receives state support from the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology and is an integral part of Oklahoma’s Innovation Model. Contact Meacham at i2E_Comments@i2E.org.