Innovative life science firm chooses Grand Rapids, looks to cut cost of using drugs

"All great things start from small beginnings" is a famous quote from Marcus Tullius Cicero. To some degree, that adage reflects the research being done by OcuSano, Inc., a new tenant of the emerging technologies incubator, GR Current.

Stanley Samuel, co-founder and CEO at OcuSano, Inc., recently moved his  team of three to Grand Rapids from Ann Arbor to take advantage of the services offered by GR Current and tap into the growing life science network.

His firm is a drug delivery company and is on a mission of making chronic disease treatments safer and affordable for patients. "Our initial target market is for posterior ocular drugs, particularly for Wet Age-Related Macular Degeneration (wet AMD). Wet AMD occurs in people 65+ years in age, affects 200,000 people in the U.S. and is projected to increase 250 percent by 2025," says Samuel.

Samuel says one important focus of their firm is on biological drugs (large molecules), a market that is less crowded than the traditional small molecule treatments: "Biologics are becoming increasingly important as therapeutic agents for cancer, auto-immune disorders, neurological disorders, diabetes, etc. This market is estimated to grow to $200 billion worldwide by 2015." He says his firm has developed an alternative to injection of these drugs, and instead has a liquid encapsulation process that is more effective and less invasive for patients.

Complexity, both in research and business modeling, is inherent with life science firms but Samuel explains a significant outcome of his research in very simple terms. "Our drug release technology makes efficient use of the injected drug by releasing it slowly in concentrations necessary for therapeutic efficacy," he says. "So a drug with our sustained release technology could last 2-3 times longer than the same concentration without any sustained release capability. This means the the number of injections could be cut by half or more, resulting in fewer side effects and the cost of drug use cut by 50 percent or more."

Samuel is very optimistic about his firm's future in Grand Rapids and anticipates hiring two employees in the near future. As for the importance of his work, he says, "healthcare and its associated costs affects every single person in this country. So our impact in the pharmaceutical space could affect individuals directly or indirectly, potentially lowering or mitigating the rise of premiums."

To learn more about OcuSano, Inc., you can visit their website here.

Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor
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