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Drug development firm taps North Lawrence space for headquarters


North Kansas City has employment giant Cerner Corp. Maybe in another decade, we'll be talking about how North Lawrence has employment giant CritiTech.

No pressure there for the leaders at CritiTech, but the KU-grown biotechnology company has announced that it has moved its headquarters and main laboratory space to North Lawrence. And like Cerner was years ago, CritiTech is a company to watch, or if you are still in the baseball mood, an exciting home run hitting prospect, so to speak.

CritiTech has taken over the space formerly occupied by Lynn Electric at 1849 E. 1450 Road to house its administration, management, research and development functions and its drug development services. If you are having a hard time picturing the space, it is just south of the Heetco propane facility along U.S. Highway 24/59.

The building provides 10,000 square feet for the growing company, and importantly, it is the type of space that CritiTech can use for manufacturing space in the future. Matthew McClorey, CritiTech's chief operating officer, said having space to manufacture active pharmaceutical ingredients was part of the thought process in taking the North Lawrence facility.

"We're very excited about our new home," McClorey said. "Due to the growth the company has experienced over the past year, we needed more space."

It was about this time last year that I was at CritiTech's previous headquarters in West Lawrence reporting on how it had added three new people to its management team and was completing its first international deal with an India-based pharmaceutical company. At that time, McClorey and others said CritiTech was poised for a significant expansion.

CritiTech is a unique drug development company in that it really has developed a process more than a specific drug. The company is in the business of making drug particles smaller. It uses technology developed at KU in the 1990s by researcher Bala Subramaniam. The technology, for example, makes it possible to deliver via patches, inhalers, injections and other methods some drugs that now only can be administered orally. The fact that the company doesn't have to rely solely on creating new drugs, but rather just new ways to deliver existing drugs, would seem to create a very wide market.

The prospect of making drug particles smaller long has fascinated the pharmaceutical industry, but it was a process that was thought impractical on a large scale. CritiTech has developed a new device that its leaders say is changing the economics of the process. The company made a splash in the industry last year by creating a joint partnership with India-based Finoso Pharma that will allow the firms to begin working on multiple new pharmaceutical products.

The big question with CritiTech is how many new jobs it may create in Lawrence. The company currently has about 10 full-time employees and a host of consultants, McClorey said. As for the future, he only would offer the company expects to "add a significant number of jobs over the next few years."

But when I talked with the company's CEO, David Johnston, last year, he said he thought it was realistic for the company to grow to about 50 employees over the next five years. That likely would mean additional scientific and technical positions, along with a few administrative positions as well.

CritiTech's new facility eventually will open up laboratory space in the bioscience expansion facility that is jointly operated by the Bioscience and Technology Business Center at Bob Billings Parkway and Wakarusa Drive. The company has had its laboratory space located in that facility. McClorey said CritiTech still rents a small amount of space in the facility, but is transitioning out of that location.

Probably the biggest aspect of CritiTech's announcement is that the company is staying in the community. CritiTech is at the stage of its growth curve where other companies have been lured away from Lawrence to go to more traditional bioscience hotbeds. But CritiTech's chairman is longtime Lawrence businessman Sam Campbell, who has said keeping the company in Lawrence is a priority.

"Nobody can predict the future, but typically a company on our path would attract interest from a lot of buyers," Campbell told me last year. "But we want to make every effort to stay in Lawrence, and if the company is successful enough, we would like to remain independent."

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  • Comments

    Richard Heckler 2 years, 2 months ago

    Of course it would nice for the company to remain loyal to Lawrence,Kansas. I detect a future request for taxpayers tax dollars if the company is to stay. Lawrence,Kansas cannot afford to be a tax dollar money hole.

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