Molecular Imaging Research Finds New Life in Ann Arbor Thanks To $7M Investment From Baird Venture Partners and Arcus Ventures

5/9/11Follow @xconomy

Michganders are sensitive about jobs and by jobs I mean there are not nearly enough of them.

Mention Pfizer shutting down its research and development center in Ann Arbor, MI or Becton, Dickinson pulling HandyLab’s operations out of Michigan after acquiring the local startup, and people get downright grumpy. What good is an exit if it doesn’t produce jobs?

With that in mind, Molecular Imaging Research(MIR) should be the feel good story of the year. After acquiring the Ann Arbor-based contract research organization (CRO) for $12.5 million in 2008, Charles River Laboratories last year said it too would withdraw from Ann Arbor.

Enter Baird Venture Partners and Arcus Ventures. The two venture firms said Monday that they acquired MIR assets from Charles River Laboratories, based in Wilmington, MA, and raised $7 million to not only keep MIR’s operations in Ann Arbor but also to expand the company.

“This can really become a compelling jobs story for Ann Arbor and Michigan,” Baird Venture partner Peter Shagory told Xconomy. “We’re excited about bringing another significant tech company to Michigan.”

Baird previously invested in Accuri Cytometers, a University of Michigan spinoff that was recently acquired by BD for $205 million.

Baird and Arcus are hardly being altruistic. The two firms had been hunting for an opportunity to crack the CRO market, especially with pre-clinical molecular imaging. As Big Pharma and small biotech firms increasingly outsource R&D services to outside firms, a CRO that focused solely on imaging technologies like fluorescence and advanced MRI/PET/CT scans could really add value to drug makers who need to test therapies on small animals, Shagory says.

“We think it’s a high growth area with significant potential,” Shagory says.

With its expert workforce, solid reputation, and a specialized facility in Ann Arbor, MIR offered the kind of critical mass that will allow Baird and Arcus to hit the market running instead of building operations from scratch, Shagory says.

The company has performed over 250 imaging studies since 2003. In the last 12 months MIR provided imaging services to 23 pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, including eight top 20 companies.

Baird and Arcus hope to raise another $1.5 million on top of the $7 million. They hope to expand the facility and hire more people to boost the existing team of 12 employees.

The investors also recruited Tom Ludlam as CEO. Ludlam formerly lead Prologue Research International, an oncology-focused CRO, which was acquired in mid-2010 by Novella Clinical.

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