Greater Oklahoma City is in the geographic center of North America equidistant from the east and west coasts and major trade partners of Canada and Mexico. The ten county region is at the crossroads of the U.S., sitting at the heart of three major national highways on the NAFTA corridor.
There's a reason Greater Oklahoma City is such a great place for business: Location. The ten county region is positioned within a day's drive of the rapidly-growing south-central region (OK, TX, AR, LA) projected to grow more than 44% during the next 25 years.
Selexys Pharma-ceuticals recently secured $3.5 million in venture capital seed money and an equal amount in grants, including the largest Small Business Innovation Research grant ever to an Oklahoma company, Chief Executive Scott Rollins said Monday.
And a lot of that money came from within the medical industry for a change, he said.
Typically a lot of early-stage funding in these ventures comes from the oil and gas industry," he said. "But what's unique about our efforts is that so much of our money came from private physicians, a pretty unusual group of angel investors and something that's been relatively untapped around here.
"We tried to target investors who were very well educated about the kinds of drugs that we're developing and the science and medicine behind those drugs. We met with groups of docs around Oklahoma City and Norman, and once they heard about the science and our programs, they were very excited about the prospects and wanted to invest," he said. "It was a reasonably easy sell."
Selexys is an Oklahoma City-based biopharmaceutical company focused on the development of antibody therapeutics for the treatment of inflammatory diseases. The company has generated highly specific inhibiting agents and is rapidly moving toward the human clinical trial stage for the treatment of Crohn's disease and sickle cell disease. The SBIR grant of $3.2 million will be applied to the development of the latter, Rollins said.
The majority of private funds came from so-called angel investors whom Rollins wouldn't identify, with the remaining $1 million provided by the Oklahoma Seed Capital Fund operated by Tom Walker and the Oklahoma Life Sciences Fund operated by William Paiva. The company was aiming for a minimum target of $2.2 million, Rollins said, so the money from those two capital funds was a surprise.
"For a biotech company, it's pretty significant in this state," Rollins said. "We pretty much maxed out what you can do locally with the funds that are available for life sciences companies."
Selexys partnered earlier this year with Cytovance Biologics for cell line development and manufacturing of the therapeutic monoclonal antibodies. Cytovance has a 44,000-square-foot multi-product production facility in Oklahoma City, which will be expanded later this year to include two bioreactors.
"We're going to try to do as much of the development of these drugs in the state as we can … and the manufacturing as well," Rollins said. "In addition to the Cytovance partnership, we are looking to the Oklahoma Center for Digestive Research, here at the (University of Oklahoma) Health Sciences Center, to help us with our clinical trials."