When Pfizer laid off Jim O’Malley in 2007, he decided it was a good opportunity to start his own company.
O’Malley is the founder of Myometrics, which was originally located in Montville. He moved to 214 Howard Street in August of 2009, and has nearly finished the discovery work for a bone replacement drug.
However, as O’Malley told Senator Richard Blumenthal on Tuesday, establishing the company has been an uphill battle. He said he thinks the money that the state invests in bioscience research does not make it to New London County.
“The state really has abandoned us,” he said. “There’s no other way to describe it.”
Blumenthal visited four businesses that have received funds from the federal Small Business Innovation Research program. These funds are administered by CT Innovations and awarded to small research and development companies, according to Blumenthal.
“I am really here to listen and learn about the exciting work that you and other startups are doing,” Blumenthal told O'Malley.
O’Malley did much of the construction and renovation at the Howard Street building himself. It now houses laboratory space and equipment, including an animal room and operating room. The building is also home to Sarataun LLC, a cancer drug discovery company.
“I think it’s pretty impressive that he comes down here, because we have no lobbying organization to speak of,” Barbara Foster, a research associate at Sarataun, said of Blumenthal.
O’Malley says Myometrics is currently a 1.2 man operation, as business partner Tom Owen is in New Jersey every day but Friday. He said he has invested about $500,000 of his own money into the company, much of it received by fortuitous land sale. In addition to grants, Cayman Chemical of Ann Arbor, Mich., has invested $3 million in the company.
O’Mally told Blumenthal said one reason he had to go out of state for an investor in the chemical side of his operations is the high equipment costs as well as a lack of facilities necessary for chemical company startups in southeastern Connecticut. He said he has pushed to have an incubator set up in the region to encourage such business growth.
Jean Schaefer, another former Pfizer employee who started the firm Artemis Startup Consulting after she was laid off from the company, agreed that an innovation hub is needed in the area to retain scientific talent who leave Pfizer.
“They’re getting recruited to Rhode Island, they’re getting recruited to Massachusetts, and some of them are still living here and commuting,” she said.
O’Malley said he thinks the region is in a Catch-22 situation. He said southeastern Connecticut is overlooked for biotechnology investment, people with scientific expertise leave to seek employment elsewhere, and this exodus is used as a reason to not fund southeastern Connecticut biosciences.
Blumenthal said he was encouraged by the company’s efforts and would work to address O'Malley's concerns.
“The state owes him and the industry a lot more attention, and I’m going to be talking to folks in Hartford about it, and people in Washington as well,” said Blumenthal.