A decade ago, Oklahoma decided to create a biotech industry. The area south of the Capitol has become home to a nationally recognized group of scientists who are finding cures for diseases, solutions to health problems and doing collaborative research with the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation and a burgeoning industry of medical companies. Oklahoma has become home to some of the world’s science and medical geniuses.
The Presbyterian Health Foundation’s Research Park is now home to more than 30 biotech companies that will likely have a positive impact on the lives of millions of people. Mike Moradi is the CEO of one of those companies, Charlesson, which is seeking treatment for macular degeneration, a disease that increasingly affects the lives of diabetics and the elderly.
The work of Charlesson is just one of many at the PHF Research Park.
Drs. Paul Weigel and Paul DeAngelis are the chief scientists at Hyalose and faculty members at the OUHSC. Their work at Hyalose involves synthetic sugar molecules that have both medical and cosmetic applications. Drs. Rod McEver and Rick Cummings are working on treatments for Crohn’s disease at Selexys Pharmaceuticals. Success here would help Americans with immune systems that attack healthy tissue in the colon.
One of the first big successes at the Research Park came from Dr. Jordan Tang of the OMRF and another colleague when they discovered a key brain enzyme responsible for a toxic protein, beta amyloid, that deposits in the brain of Alzheimer’s patients. Alzheimer’s is one of the fastest growing diseases, and current estimates indicate if could affect 10 percent of the population over age 65 and more than 40 percent over 85. The work done by Tang represents hope for a cure.
Dr. David Albert is the founder of Lifetone Technology and inventor of a device that listens for the smoke alarm and emits a loud broadcast at much lower frequencies that can be heard by the hearing impaired. Dr. William Hildebrand is an OUHSC researcher and professor working on a process that makes organ transplants more successful. Doug McCormack lost a leg to cancer more than 25 years ago and used that firsthand knowledge of the pain and discomfort of prosthetics to create devices that adapt to the wearer. He’s the CEO of OrthoCare and is working on a microprocessor-controlled limb.
Dr. Tom Kupiec is CEO of Analytical Research Laboratories. The company’s core competency is genetic testing and analysis. Cytovance Biologics CEO Darren Head and his company offer customers a manufacturing process that produces drugs that can go straight into humans for clinical trials and commercial drug use.
These companies and individuals are also changing the image and reputation of Oklahoma City. In years past, few individuals or companies in these industries would have even considered having a facility here. Today, Oklahoma’s central location is becoming an advantage. Better yet, the OU Cancer Institute is one of only 63 comprehensive cancer treatment centers in the nation.
The PHF is headed by longtime Oklahoman Mike Anderson. The former Westminster Presbyterian Church preacher spent 25 years in that pulpit healing souls. Today, his leadership is helping heal mind and body by recruiting geniuses who are making Oklahoma City a growing center of the biotech industry.
Orza is dean of the Meinders School of Business at Oklahoma City University.