Untested territory Featured

8:11pm EDT June 30, 2011
Untested territory

Dr. Michael Bozik became an entrepreneur to fulfill his careerlong ambition to help develop medicines and cures for brain diseases. His career was on the fast track, but his impatience to develop life-changing medicines led him to the life-changing conclusion that small biotechnology firms could advance drugs faster than bureaucratic big pharmaceutical companies.

Knopp Biosciences was founded in 2004 to commercialize a diagnostic test for ALS, better known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Bozik joined the company as president and CEO and personally invested $200,000 to supplement Knopp’s limited working capital after it identified a compound under investigation at the University of Virginia. In 2006, he secured an exclusive license to bring the technology to Pittsburgh.

Drug development is highly capital- and talent-intensive, and Knopp needed both. Along with raising millions, Bozik recruited top managers from East Coast companies to Pittsburgh to initiate drug manufacturing and animal toxicology. Trials of the compound being developed showed signs of human safety and slowed Lou Gehrig’s disease progression.

Bozik’s innovative spirit is evident. People doubted he could build a pharmaceutical company in Pittsburgh because there weren’t any, but they were wrong. They thought he couldn’t raise money from Boston without moving the company there, but they were wrong. People told him that Lou Gehrig’s disease was a Bermuda Triangle for drug development, but they were wrong again.

Although Knopp ended up licensing its drug findings to Biogen, Bozik assured that it did not license the science behind the medicine. Knopp is now expanding its laboratory effort to exploit this proprietary science to discover follow-on drugs for Parkinson’s and other brain diseases. In 2011 alone, Knopp has recruited numerous out-of-town Ph.D.s to Pittsburgh and is doubling its laboratory to nearly 9,000 square feet.

In Bozik’s tenure as president and CEO, he has raised millions, achieved a breakthrough in drug development, completed a huge licensing transaction and distributed tens of millions to shareholders and put Knopp Biosciences on the map in Pittsburgh.

HOW TO REACH: Knopp Biosciences LLC, (412) 488-1776 or www.knoppneurosciences.com