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X-Ology Magazine People Profiles: Duane Day, Founder, President and CEO, Molecular Innovations Inc.

WOW FACTOR

Molecular Innovations produces a wide range of scientific products, including assay kits, which researchers use to measure important proteins in biological samples. The products allow pharmaceutical companies to develop disease-fighting drugs that can ultimately save lives. The company currently offers more than 30 kits.

CORPORATE CLIMB

Day graduated from Oakland University with a degree in chemistry and landed a research position in a biochemistry laboratory at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit. Looking for something to supplement his income, he stumbled across a small company in Indiana that was purifying proteins from blood plasma. He was doing the same thing at Henry Ford, but he was purifying different proteins. In his spare time, he set up a makeshift lab in his garage to supply blood-clotting proteins to the company in exchange for royalties on their sales. He decided to start his own company and sell his proteins outright ­— while still working full time in the hospital lab. In 1998, he left Henry Ford and turned his full attention to the company, which today offers a wide-ranging product line from a state-of-the-art facility in Novi, MI.

CREDENTIALS

• Bachelor’s degree, chemistry, Oakland University
• Co-author of nearly 30 scientific papers
• Member, Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology
• Molecular Innovations is a member of the Michigan Biosciences Industry Organization (MichBio)

VOICE OF EXPERIENCE

“When you start your business in a garage as a one-man operation, you learn to do things your own way. At some point, as the business grows, you realize that you can no longer do it all on your own. If you are going to grow, you have to hire staff, delegate responsibility and multiply your efforts through your employees. I learned this pretty quickly, but the next part was harder to learn. Most people need guidance and motivation from the top. You can’t just say, ‘This is what I want to accomplish,’ and expect your staff to go ahead and do it. You need to give guidance and set goals and deadlines.” — Interviewed by Leslie Mertz

Link: X-Ology Magazine.


Molecular Innovations Awarded SBIR Phase I Funding For Prorenin Assay

Molecular Innovations, Inc. (Novi, MI) has been awarded grant funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to adapt their Human Prorenin ELISA Kit (Catalog Number HPRENKT and HPRENKT-NP) to a multiplex format for clinical use. Positive feedback from the NIH study section includes:

“A very straightforward application from experienced investigators, to develop an improved assay for prorenin. The specific aims are clearly and logically presented, and will likely result in an improved assay.”

“The assay would be very useful for early detection of diabetic retinopathy and nephropathy, as well as other cardiovascular illnesses.”

“Early detection would undoubtedly result in better long term outcomes.”

Elevated levels of prorenin in plasma have been shown to be indicative of a number of diseases, including preeclampsia, heart failure, diabetic retinopathy and diabetic kidney disease. Approximately 366 million people worldwide are expected to develop type 2 diabetes by 2010, making this one of the fastest growing epidemics in the world. One third of these persons will go on to develop diabetic neuropathy and nephropathy, many requiring renal replacement therapy. Elevation of prorenin levels in serum of adolescent diabetics may be indicative of retinopathy and nephropathy several years before pathology actually occurs, providing an excellent opportunity for preventative intervention. Therefore, accurate measurement of prorenin may have profound impact on both diagnostic and predictive clinical applications.

The human prorenin assay currently produced by Molecular Innovations directly measures prorenin in human plasma using a unique proprietary monoclonal antibody that detects an epitope of the human renin prosegment (Patent Pending). The complete kit measures prorenin directly by ELISA without pretreatment of samples or conversion to renin, includes all reagents and standards, and can be performed in less than two hours. Other commercially available assays to detect prorenin levels are plagued by extremely lengthy procedures, use of radioisotopes, and inaccuracy related to the variable activation state of prorenin. The Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I funding will enable Molecular Innovations to reengineer and optimize the kit to create a clinical diagnostic assay capable of detecting diabetes in its earliest stages. Additional monoclonal antibodies and labeling methodologies will be explored to increase assay sensitivity for measurement of prorenin in human urine samples. The assay will then be adapted to the high throughput Luminex system for eventual use in the clinical laboratory, offering significant advantages of speed and sensitivity over current methods of prorenin quantitation.

Molecular Innovations offers a complete line of renin and prorenin research reagents including purified human, mouse, rat & dog prorenin, purified human & dog renin, three unique monoclonals, rabbit & sheep polyclonals, depleted plasma, and ELISA kits. Please visit www.mol-innov.com/promopage/renin.html for more information on these products.


U.S. Commerce Secretary meets with Molecular Innovations


Carlos M. Gutierrez (U.S. Commerce Secretary), Duane Day (President/CEO, Molecular Innovations), L. Brooks Patterson (Oakland County Executive), Joe Knollenberg (U.S. Congressman, 9th District)


Michigan’s Biotech Boom
Companies Making the Gr’A’de
X-ology Magazine

Bioscience is the study of the cellular processes at the molecular level. With this information, scientists can determine genetic features – those things that make each individual unique. Understanding the cell at this level allows scientists to prescribe the precise drug and dosage for each person for any illness. Biotechnology encompasses the science of developing these “personalized medicines,” whether they are biological or synthesized chemicals.

For years, Southeast Michigan has been home to a thriving biotech community. Unfortunately, most people didn’t know about it. Companies like Molecular Innovations have spent years incubating leading-edge therapeutics and devices. But, without a marketing campaign or snazzy slogan to draw attention to their endeavors, they were prophets without honor. All that is changing as these companies realize the rewards of their sweat equity and, today, serve as shining examples of the possibilities of Michigan’s biotech industry.

Eighteen years ago, Duane Day, a biochemical research scientist for Detroit’s Henry Ford Health System, was purifying blood proteins in a crock-pot in his garage, burning the midnight oil to get his biotech company off the ground. By 1998, he had achieved his coveted position: full-time entrepreneur. Today, Day’s company, Molecular Innovations, produces and sells blood proteins and other products to hospitals, pharmaceutical companies and research institutions around the world. The company operates from a brand new, 13,000-square-foot facility in Novi, MI, having outgrown its previous Southfield, MI, location. The new building houses offices, a protein chemistry production laboratory, a molecular biology lab, a clean room, two cold rooms and a fitness center. Molecular Innovations plays a critical role in helping researchers develop new medical therapies. “We take snippets of DNA from humans, mice and rats and, using genetic engineering, clone genes into different hosts, which then churn out different proteins that are purified and marketed to researchers for drug discovery programs,” says Day. He says his company is refining one of its most promising technologies: a protein-fusion tag that involves the creation of rat or mouse versions of newly discovered proteins. The animal proteins are purified and marketed for R&D to screen potential drug candidates. Day sees his staff of 18 easily expanding to 30 or 40, especially if the contract research company he’s currently incubating – Medigenix LLC – is successful. Medigenix, which provides University of Michigan researchers with stroke models for research on mice, supports Day’s philosophy to constantly develop new projects. “The key,” he says, “is R&D.”

Steve Raphael


Biotech company seeks patent boost
Detroit News

The company: Southfield-based Molecular Innovations Inc. is a biotechnology firm that produces proteins for academic, institutional and commercial pharmaceutical uses. Molecular, which started in president and CEO Duane Day’s garage, has about 10 employees and 250 products.

Incubator space: Molecular broke ground last month on its Novi headquarters, which will open in the fall of 2007. The 12,600-square-foot expands Molecular’s research and development capabilities, Day said. He also wants the site to serve as an incubator for other startup biotech firms. “It will allow these companies to go from zero to 60 very fast,” Day said.

Expansion plans: Day said the company recently applied for a patent for one of its products. If Molecular receives the patent, it will strengthen its position in the biotech industry. That is when he’ll be ready to hire additional employees and seek out investors. “It takes time and money to come up with these innovative products,” Day said.

Final word: “To have our own facility designed and built to our custom specifications to further our scientific research and expand our product offerings is simply fantastic,” Day said.

Karen Dybis


Small but hopeful doses of new jobs
By Tom Walsh. Detroit Free Press

As Detroit’s automotive companies hemorrhage tens of thousands of jobs, it’s not easy to stay upbeat about the future of Michigan’s economy.

But a glint of hope returns when I happen upon a story like that of Duane Day, 50, whom I met Wednesday in Novi. A biochemical research scientist for Henry Ford Hospital during most of the 1980s and ’90s, Day started puttering around with proteins in his garage after his wife, Claudia — a PhD microbiologist and immunologist — taught him how to clone DNA.

Day’s first piece of lab equipment for his garage-based startup business more than 15 years ago was a Crock-Pot he used as a temperature-controlled water bath in the process of making proteins that helped researchers study blood coagulation. He still has the Crock-Pot, but for nostalgic reasons only.

On Thursday, Day dedicated the site for a new $2.3-million headquarters and laboratory complex in Novi for his company, Molecular Innovations Inc.

Day has 10 employees at Molecular Innovations now, but he intends to grow that to 50 sometime soon. Meanwhile, he’ll offer incubator space in his new digs to other startups.

Another glint of hope came Thursday as I watched Dan Gilbert, founder of Rock Financial/Quicken Loans, and Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick dedicate a new Junior Achievement Finance Park to help teach middle-school kids how to manage money. Gilbert put $1 million into the JA park and, separately, is pumping up to $10 million more into a program called Bizdom U, to train and support young entrepreneurs in Detroit.

Kilpatrick said a “revolutionary transformation” has hit Detroit’s auto industry hard. Economic recovery won’t come via giant industrial companies, he said, but rather by changing the mind-set and attitudes of young Detroiters so they start and grow their own businesses.

None of this will be easy or fast.

General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co. and key suppliers are cutting so many jobs that it’s like putting the equivalent of a small nation or two out of work. All at once, it seems.

Job creation, on the other hand, is occurring a mere 10 jobs at a time at companies like Molecular Innovations.

The seeds of future job creation are being planted, one young mind at a time, in programs such as Bizdom U and the JA Finance Park.

There’s no immediate evidence in the state unemployment data that Michigan is on the rebound, or even on the verge of one, statistically.

What’s encouraging is that the conversation has changed. Finally.

I don’t hear anybody saying, “It’s just another cycle; we’ve been through these ups and downs before. GM and Ford will bounce back, and everything will be OK.”

Rather, the reality seems to have sunk in that even if GM and Ford rediscover their mojo and regain solid footing, they will never be the employment engines they once were.

Ditto for Pfizer Inc.’s drug research labs in Ann Arbor, the shrunken office furniture makers of Grand Rapids or the bygone paper mills of Kalamazoo.

The giant companies aren’t job creators. That’s why in Detroit, in Kalamazoo, at Automation Alley in Oakland County and the Ann Arbor SPARK consortium, all the talk these days is about entrepreneurs, about incubators, about venture capital.

If the new companies of Michigan’s future create only 10 jobs at a time, so be it. Let’s get moving and create lots and lots of them.

Contact TOM WALSH at 313-223-4430 or twalsh@freepress.com.


Molecular Innovations Launches New Home
Michigan Construction News

 

With a dry break in moist fall weather, ground was formerly broken for the new, 12,600 square foot headquarters for Molecular Innovations. An example of investment in biotechnology, the $2.5 million facility is being designed and built by Synergy Group Inc., Bloomfield Hills, on a 1.5 acre site in Novi.

A 16 year old firm, Molecular Innovations began in the garage of its founder, Duane Day, who remains its president and chief executive officer, where such practical devices as a crack pot were used as a temperature controlled water bath.

“In the beginning it was just me,” Day told those who gathered for the event. “The company manufactured and marketed protein reagents as well as a few other products.” Thanking his friend, Dr. Dan Lawrence, a professor of cardiovascular medicine at the University of Michigan, Day said, “I still recall many years ago when a major pharmaceuticals company called and asked us to develop an immunoassay to augment their drug recovery program. I immediately called Dan and asked his opinion since I had no experience in this area. He replied, ‘of course, any idiot can do it.’ I figured I qualified so I did it. It turns out the assay and variatons of it are some of our biggest selling products.”

Currently housed in a cramped warehouse space, Molecular Innovations produces over 250 different products sold to major hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, and research institutions not only in North America, but in nearly every country in the world. When it opens in the fall of 2007 this will vastly increase the space available to the company and will allow to employ up to 50 workers, mostly researchers with advanced degrees.

The building will contain about 4,000 square feet devoted to offices along with a protein chemistry production laboratory, a molecular biology lab and clean room, two cold rooms, and a fitness center with showers and lockers for employees. Located on a site that backs up to a wooded wetland, the building will feature a masonry cast stone base and trim wall system along with a two story reflective glass lobby. In addition, the building will serve as the home of Innovative Research Inc., another firm founded by Day about a year ago.

Motioning to the group of about 50 people who came to the groundbreaking, president and CEO of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, said Day and his successful accomplishments in building up a state of the art biotechnical company from humble beginnings, makes a bold statement about Michigan.

“This is not a crow of 500 for a plant that’s going to have 10,000 workers,” he declared. “It is a seed planted by Duane Day. He is exactly the type of person and innovator we’re trying to bring to Michigan.”

October 20, 2006


Molecular Innovations, Inc. Breaks Ground On New R&D, Lab Facility
Biospace.com

 

NOVI, Mich., Oct. 18 /PRNewswire/ — A biotech start-up company, Molecular Innovations, Inc., broke ground Wednesday on its first wholly-owned state-of- the-art research and development laboratory and production space, it was announced today.

The 12,600 square-foot facility, located in a Novi technology park, is scheduled for completion in the fall of 2007. About 100 people, including Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson, joined President & CEO Duane E. Day for the traditional earth moving ceremony.

“This is truly a dream come true,” said Day, who built the company from scratch and housed the once fledgling business in his garage. “To have our own facility designed and built to our custom specifications to further our scientific research and expand our product offerings is simply fantastic.

“This facility is at the cutting edge and symbolic of Mr. Patterson’s vision of emerging sectors companies like Molecular creating a stronger biotechnology presence in Michigan,” said Day. “I am grateful to Oakland County, the State of Michigan, our loyal customers and dedicated employees for helping to make this day a reality.”

Other dignitaries attending the event included: Senator Nancy Cassis; Michigan House Speaker Craig DeRoche; and Gov. Jennifer Granholm, who could not attend due to schedule conflicts, but did send an aide and a congratulatory note to Day honoring the company’s investment in Michigan.

The contemporary building, designed by Synergy Group, Inc. of Bloomfield Hills, features unique lab space custom designed to meet the research, business and operational needs of a biotech company that produces proteins for academic, institutional and commercial pharmaceutical uses. The company also does research on gene cloning of cells.

The state-of-the-art lab building will include: * Offices comprised of approximately 4,000 s.f. * 1 Protein Chemistry Production Lab * 1 Molecular Biology lab/clean room * 2 Cold Rooms (storage) * Fitness Center/Showers/Lockers

Building features include multiple private offices. The facility features a lunch room and lounge, fitness center, lobby, storage and an enclosed truck dock for shipping and receiving. The building is sited in a technology park that backs up to a wooded, wetland location, affording offices and the lunchroom areas a view of a natural woodland setting.

“I wanted to build this first building in Novi because of the quality of life here and in Oakland County,” said Day. “The reception by the community has been great. Our central location to Ann Arbor and Detroit and ability to ship product anywhere makes this area very desirable.”

The Novi planning commission and City Council unanimously approved the project and welcomed Day and the company’s high-paying, skilled jobs. Molecular was assisted in obtaining support for the project by the Oakland County Economic Development Department, Michigan Economic Development Department and private-sector financing through Ann Arbor Commerce Bank.

Molecular Innovations, Inc.

CONTACT: Bruce Babiarz of BAB Associates, LLC, +1-248-890-5030,Babiarz@comcast.net , for Molecular Innovations, Inc.


Molecular Innovations is a Company To Watch!
From an award program celebrating second stage entrepreneurs in association with the Edward Lowe Foundation.

“We partner with our customers by providing them with tools to make their discoveries possible. This motivates our employees to support customers and respond to their needs.” Duane Day, President and CEO of Molecular Innovations

Snapshot: The company develops and sells reagents to scientific researchers and was originally funded with personal savings and bartering. Its customers need these reagents—chemical substances used for analysis or testing—to conduct biological research. The company’s product line includes enzymes, antibodies, enzyme inhibitors and test kits for studies with animal models.

Managing Growth: To overcome the challenges that accompany fast growth, Day learns from experience. “During our first growth spurt, we did a pretty good job of allocating resources between R&D, manufacturing and marketing and sales,” he says. “Today we’re confronting several growth opportunities that are more strategic in nature, given that they have the potential to significantly change the long-term nature of the business.” The company is applying the same principle that worked well during its startup years: Opportunities equal risk, so manage risk by focusing on how to provide the best value to customers.

Make Way for Breakthroughs: The company’s products play an important role in the development of new medical therapies. Genentech, a leading biotech firm, used one of Molecular Innovation’s earliest products to develop a clot-buster medication that now saves thousands of lives every year. In another example, the company’s rat and mouse reagents and related kits have allowed Wyeth Pharmaceuticals to develop a promising drug that has the potential to prevent heart attacks and strokes.

Plans to Expand: The company expects to build a 13,100-square-foot laboratory in Novi that will house state-of-the-art molecular biology and protein chemistry labs and equipment. The new facility will include a fitness center, cafeteria and conference room, as well as a large warehouse for its 250-plus product lines. Day expects the employee count to exceed 35 in this location.

Scientist as Entrepreneur: In the eight years after Day founded the company, he kept his day job as a research coordinator at Henry Ford Hospital. By 1998 the firm’s success enabled him to become a full-time entrepreneur. That undivided attention, coupled with the lessons Day learned in the startup years, propelled the company onto its current growth track.

Fierce Frugality: To equip a laboratory with limited access to capital, Day had to be creative. He fabricated essential lab equipment from unlikely materials. For example, a crock pot became a temperature-controlled water bath used in product development. Yet Day’s creativity could only take the company so far. What led him to reach financial breakeven—and profitable growth—was an unwavering focus on customer needs.


Molecular Innovations at center of diversification efforts
By Andy Henion Oakland Business Review

Sixteen years ago, researcher Duane Day was purifying blood proteins in a Crock-Pot in his garage, determined to turn his passion into a thriving biotech firm.

Mission accomplished.

Day’s Southfield-based business, Molecular Innovations Inc., was named one of Michigan’s best second-stage companies and he expects to start construction soon on a $2 million-plus, state-of-the-art headquarters in Novi.

Molecular Innovations is exactly the type of company state leaders want to see more of as they attempt to diversify the economy in the face of the domestic auto industry’s decline. The more “knowledge-based” companies Michigan has – whether in life sciences, information technology or other growing sectors – the better the state can compete against the nation’s top technology corridors, including California’s Silicon Valley and Boston’s Route 128.

Oakland County has nearly 100 life sciences companies – some of them one- or two-person ventures – and economic development officials are uncovering more all the time, said Irene Spanos, a senior county business developer.

“The biggest problem is awareness, not only in Michigan but in Oakland County,” said Spanos, adding that many people are surprised to learn that Michigan ranks second to California in research and development spending.

It was Spanos who recommended Molecular Innovations for the “Michigan 50 Companies to Watch” award, an annual program sponsored by the Edward Lowe Foundation. The process honors privately held, second-stage companies with revenue from $750,000 to $50 million.

Fifteen companies from Oakland County were recognized – the most of any county – representing a variety of sectors, from IT to staffing to retail.

But second-stage companies are prone to growing pains – which Day, the president of Molecular Innovations, knows well.

His company – which creates and sells blood proteins and other products used by researchers to develop drugs – has seen sales grow so fast that Day is having difficulty keeping a handle on the business end. He plans to hire a finance team soon to remedy that.

Revenue is $1 million-$5 million, Day said, and the company is profitable, though he acknowledged he didn’t know how profitable – thus another reason for accountants.

The company has outgrown its second facility – a 2,400-square-foot office in Southfield – prompting the need for new space. Day, who lives in Novi, bought a couple of acres at West and Beck roads and plans to break ground this fall on a 13,000-square-foot plant. He’s currently lining up the financing.

Synergy Group Inc. of Bloomfield Hills is designing the facility, which will include air quality-controlled rooms, a fitness center and space for 40-50 employees.

Molecular Innovation has 10 employees, mostly researchers, and Day has added one to three workers a year.

Faster growth could be on the horizon if one or more of the company’s new technologies pan out.

One of the most promising, called a protein-fusion tag, involves a process by which Molecular scientists create rat or mouse versions of newly discovered proteins. The animal proteins are purified and marketed for R&D to screen potential drug candidates.

Andy Henion covers emerging business for Oakland Business Review.


Gene cloning coming to Novi
By Tracy Mishler. Novi News

Duane Day anticipates moving from Southfield to Novi this fall.

After 15 years of being crammed into about 2,500 square feet, Day is ready for his company, Molecular Innovations, to expand into a new 13,000-square-foot state-of-the-art research facility, designed by Bloomfield Hills-based Synergy Group, once construction is complete.

Located off of West Road in the Beck North Development, Day said more space will allow him to expand, add more employees and move forward in new directions.

Started by Day in 1990, Molecular Innovations is a biotech company specializing in gene cloning.

“We take genes from humans, mice and rats and put them in bacterial or insect cells and the cells then become miniature factories that produce protein,” said Day, resident of Novi. “Then we market them to researchers for drug discovery programs.”

Day said the company mainly focuses on research.

“But in the future we want to move into Good Manufacturing Procedures (GMP),” he said, “which will allow us to develop clinical diagnostic kits that can be used in hospitals to measure levels of protein.”

A new ‘Day’.

Day said he started his company after his wife, Claudia, taught him how to first clone DNA.

The two met while he was doing research in the area of blood coagulation and Claudia was completing her Ph.D. in microbiology and immunology at Wayne State University.

The couple lives in Novi with their children Erin, 8, and Kerry, 5.

Day said his decision to move Molecular Innovations was its proximity to home and major universities.

“We have collaborations with the University of Michigan, Wayne State University and Oakland University,” he said. “Novi is a good area and great place for us to grow.”

Day said with the size of his new facility, Molecular Innovations will be able to expand from 10 employees to almost 50.

“Our plans for research are to capitalize on the Human Genome project, an initiative to figure out the DNA sequence of human beings,” he said.

Construction is slated to begin in the fall and Day said completion on the building has been forecasted for February or March 2007.

Tracy Mishler is a staff writer for the Novi News. She can be reached at (248) 349-1700, ext. 107, or at tmishler@gannett.com.