LaFayette Start-up Ichor Thearapeutics Expanding With More Space, Workers, and ESF Partnership

Aug 2, 2018

Ichor lab tech Meegan Sleeper works under a flow hood, which creates an air barrier to keep cells free of contaminants.
Credit Scott Willis / WAER News

A fast-growing LaFayette-based biotechnology start-up is partnering with SUNY ESF in hopes of creating a future workforce for themselves and the industry as a whole. 

The collaboration is part of a larger expansion of Ichor Therapeutics.

For a company that started in Kelsey Moody’s living room five years ago, the CEO says there’s a certain naivete that gives them a competitive advantage…

"We don't have preconceived notions about what's possible and not.  We just have a goal at the end of the finish line that we're working towards.  I think that we're proving by example that traditional throughts about how to develop drugs and how to conduct science in a cost-effective way need to be thrown out."

And he says they’re doing that through their collaboration with ESF…breaking down the academic and product development silos and forcing them to intersect…

"Students can come to Ichor to learn about operating in an industry setting and do the thesis components of their masters or Ph.D program right here at Ichor.  We think through this initiative we're going to be able to break down those barriers to entry and leverage the skillsets and capacities of higher education institutions and start-up companies."

Senior technician in the biochemical department Elle Lumen analyzes and separates proteins in a gel. Biochem lab tech Zachary Thomas works in the background.
Credit Scott Willis / WAER News

In Ichor’s downstairs lab, chemist and ESF grad student Kris Grohn is the first to go through the partnership.  He says Ichor’s operations and vision offer unlimited the potential…

"Just the sheer number of capabilites we have..we can bring to bear in any given problem; we have cell biology, we have chemistry, we have biochemistry, we have manufacturing to prepare any number of things.  We have a robotics room, a full automation room where we can eliminate a good chunk of labor."

Chief Operating Officer Aaron Wolfe says using automation for repetitive tasks allows them to hire more chemists and technicians like Grohn to do the more nuanced work.

"In this area, the retention of your intellectual capital is a large deficit.  If you're earning a Ph.D...I'm finishing mine at Syracuse'd have to leave.  All my friends are in Silicon Valley or in Boston."

Chemist and ESF Graduate student Kris Grohn extracts some protein.
Credit Scott Willis / WAER News

CEO Kelsey Moody says the best investments for biotechnology are in here in Central New York.

"With all of the nearby universities, the access to human capital and intellectual capital is profound.  If we want to build this region together, we need to be able to leverage those assets.  We need to put our money where our mouth is."

For example, he says they’re using $2 million from founding investor Roger Bagg in the UK to build out another lab a couple doors north on Route 11 in a former health center. 

"We're buing buildings for the cost of rent in Boston and Silicon Valley."

The 8,400 square foot space will allow Ichor to nearly double its workforce from 20 to 34 when it’s complete next spring.  Moody says Ichor has also launched a strategic investment fund to support other start-ups in the industry.  Their first investment is a $75,000 placement with Repair Biotechnologies out of Texas.  He expects the company to move to Ichor’s LaFayette facilities in the next month or two. 

Ichor CEO Kelsey Moody announces the company's expansion at a press conference Thursday outside of their headquarters in LaFayette. At left is Asssemblymember Gary Finch, and at right is Rep. John Katko.
Credit Scott Willis / WAER News