U-M partners with chemistry firm at North Campus Research Complex

Dr. Paul Herrinton of BoroPharm works inside the company's new location on U-M's North Campus Research Complex. With BoroPharm, an award-winning, green chemistry firm, the University of Michigan has forged an important public-private partnership.

Ann Arbor, Mich. -The University of Michigan has forged an important public-private partnership at the North Campus Research Complex, with the arrival of an award-winning, green chemistry firm in space at the former Pfizer property.

The firm, BoroPharm, is a chemical development and manufacturing business founded in 2005 by two Michigan State University professors. The firm began moving in mid-May to Building 40, a specialized free-standing chemical production building on the North Campus Research Complex.

BoroPharm had outgrown its space in East Lansing and found the building at NCRC to be the right fit. The company had considered relocating out of state as a result of limited facility options in the greater Lansing area.

"We are thrilled to have this opportunity to collaborate with a growing scientific business. We are happy we are able to provide a Michigan company room to grow in Michigan," says Ora Hirsch Pescovitz, M.D., executive vice president for Medical Affairs of the University of Michigan and chief executive officer of the U-M Health System.

Pescovitz says BoroPharm's willingness to collaborate with U-M faculty and students was key to the University's interest in the partnership. Building 40 on the campus is designed for specific chemistry processes. The University did not have near-term plans to utilize the specialized lab configurations, making the fit with BoroPharm a prime opportunity for both parties.

The University is aggressively pursuing additional public-private partnerships at NCRC, as well as shaping a strategy for the use of the 174-acre, 30-building site by its own researchers, research support staff and students.

"We are eager for our faculty and students to begin working with BoroPharm," says Pescovitz.

Todd Zahn, chief executive officer of BoroPharm, says the company plans to continue to grow in the NCRC location and become an important commercial collaborator in the NCRC community.

BoroPharm develops and manufactures chemical intermediates with an emphasis on boron-based compounds designed to support scientists in the pharmaceutical, biotechnology and chemical industries.

The company's origins stemmed from the development of a process that supports the development of unique boron intermediates while using far less organic solvent and hazardous materials. This work helped the company's co-founders win the 2008 Presidential Award in Green Chemistry from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Boron-based compounds are used as chemical building blocks in new pharmaceuticals, agrochemicals and other chemical products. BoroPharm creates, isolates and purifies compounds that are known to be important building blocks for discovery and development scientists.

"The NCRC location provides us a terrific platform to continue to grow our company and continue partnering with world-class researchers," Zahn says.  "We will be developing new products here. We are looking forward to a successful partnership here at the University of Michigan and in Ann Arbor.

"The company's roots as a faculty created enterprise have reinforced the belief and value of providing students with a real world, real time training and education experience in a commercial context. We have and will continue to have a very active student training program where we hire undergraduate and graduate students who are seeking to gain work experience in the field of chemistry," Zahn says, adding he plans to hire students soon and in the future. 

Zahn says part of NCRC's appeal is the building itself, a specialized chemistry lab that supports the company's growth in a specialized field that would be otherwise difficult to find. Pfizer used the building for a similar function.

The University is aggressively planning for new research projects to be located at the complex. An extensive application process opened to U-M faculty is in the review phase, and several research projects are undergoing final analysis.

The University has also moved about 300 current employees into four office buildings on the property and is expecting to move more this summer.

The property is located near the intersection of Huron Parkway and Plymouth Road on the north side of Ann Arbor. The University purchased the property in June 2009.

For more on the North Campus Research Complex, visit www.umresearchgrowth.org.  To receive e-mail updates about NCRC, follow the instructions on the Contact Us page of the site.

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