Pfizer To Support Kazoo StartUps

May 5, 2003
| By Katy Rent |
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KALAMAZOO — Pfizer’s chairman and CEO said in a press conference recently that in the event of Pfizer job cuts in Kalamazoo, the company’s first objective is to make sure displaced employees have access to jobs elsewhere.

“If there’s a group of scientists or manufacturing people who want to develop a technology and partner with somebody, it’s a great idea,” said Hank McKinnell, CEO of Pfizer. “That’s something that we certainly would facilitate. And the governor, I think, would help too.”

McKinnell said that in order for Pfizer spin-off companies to survive, they would need incentives to stay in the area.

“If these little companies are created, they can’t survive on their own,” said McKinnell. “They need capital, and we have provided capital to companies elsewhere. And we do have over 2,000 partnerships with universities, small companies all the way up to larger companies.”

One group that could play a role in creating spin-off companies is Southwest Michigan First.

The Southwest Michigan First Innovation Center (SMIC), which opens in June, will already be home to at least five young bioscience companies. Each company is partnered not only with the incubator/accelerator, but also with Western Michigan University.

Most of the companies were a result of the investment conferences created to germinate start-ups by matching aspiring entrepreneurs with sources of funding. The Venture Capital Marketplace, to be held on May 13-14 in Kalamazoo will offer those that attend the same opportunities.

Through partnerships with the university, SMF hopes to diversify the job market in Kalamazoo since it launched this technology-led development initiative and believes support from Pfizer would strengthen this plan.

“Typically, universities and companies develop technology through basic research,” said SMF CEO Barry Broome. “Our model calls for acquiring basic research and matching it with companies than can successfully bring the technology to the market.”

A partnership with WMU and VDDI Pharmaceuticals out of Brentwood, TN is a prime example of SMF’s vision. SMF helped VDDI to obtain rights to a drug patent owned by WMU.

Southwest Michigan First and WMU will foster the technology as VDDI develops the drug Xemilofiban and both VDDI and WMU will reap the financial rewards.

Like WMU, Pfizer could aid small companies in a similar way and while the company does not have any current plans for specific spin-off companies, it does intend to create partnerships in the area, McKinnell said.

“The university system here is first class,” he said. “We have a great relationship with the University of Michigan and look forward to that relationship here as well.”

And through this partnership, McKinnell added that he feels both Pfizer and WMU can meet their objectives through partnership.

“If there are people who want to stay in Kalamazoo who need capital and relationships to be successful staying in Kalamazoo,” McKinnell said, “you need a company like Pfizer to make all that happen.”

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