A Life Sciences Phoenix: QuaDPharma Rises, Led By Experts from Departed WNY Firm

With help from UB, former employees of Contract Pharmaceuticals Limited have launched QuaDPharma, a Clarence-based pharmaceuticals manufacturer

By Kerry Jones Waring

Release Date: December 11, 2012 This content is archived.


BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Stephen Panaro, a chemist from Western New York, was working for Contract Pharmaceuticals Limited (CPL) in 2010 when the Canadian company announced plans to shut down Buffalo-based operations.

Panaro declined the opportunity to move across the border to stay with the firm. A chemist who received a PhD from UB, Panaro had deep ties to Western New York. He was born and raised in the area -- the kind of Buffalonian who proclaims, "I love Buffalo, the people and the snow."

So Panaro pitched an idea to two CPL colleagues, Ryan Downey and Leanne Kisicki: Together, the three had extensive experience in the pharmaceuticals manufacturing industry. Why not leverage that to start a company of their own?

The result of those conversations was QuaDPharma, which was incorporated in 2010 with Panaro as president and CEO, Downey as director of quality assurance and Kisicki as director of quality control.

The company manufactures and tests small-batch pharmaceuticals -- prescription solids, ointments, lotions, creams and liquids that researchers or drug companies need in small quantities (generally less than 1,000 liters).

Today, QuaDPharma has grown to include seven employees. It occupies an 18,000 square-foot office and manufacturing facility in Clarence. This fully compliant Food and Drug Administration-regulated facility is outfitted with state-of–the-art equipment to support clients' product development, analytical testing, and clinical and commercial manufacturing, Panaro said.

Panaro, who anticipates continued expansion, says assistance from the University at Buffalo has been critical to the company's survival in its first years. Specifically, UB's Center for Advanced Biomedical and Bioengineering Technology (UB CAT), which is based in UB's New York State Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics and Life Sciences, has partnered with QuaDPharma in the following ways:

-- The UB CAT has referred seven clients to QuaDPharma, ranging from research professors who have developed a new drug to larger pharmaceutical companies. These clients form a large part of QuaDPharma's business today, Panaro said.

-- The UB CAT invited QuaDPharma to present at the UB CAT's 2011-12 Life Sciences Commercialization Lecture Series. During this event, the UB CAT staff introduced QuaDPharma's founders to Rand Capital, a local venture capital firm that went on to provide QuaDPharma with the startup's first private investment, in the amount of $500,000. The investment helped save several jobs in jeopardy of being lost. It also positioned the company to take on new contracts to grow business and expand their service offerings to pharmaceutical clients. In November 2012, Rand Capital announced it had invested additional funds of $200,000, along with investments totaling $300,000 from Glen Falls, N.Y.-based Advantage Capital Partners and other investors, to bring the total from all investors to $1 million.

-- The UB CAT facilitated invitations for QuaDPharma to present at the 2011 MedTech Conference, 2011 BIO International Conference and 2012 BIO International Convention. Networking opportunities at these events generated various business leads, including a partnership with a Nebraska company that is helping QuaDPharma develop new capabilities in manufacturing and testing protein-based drugs. In aggregate, attendance at these events resulted in meetings with prospective clients and business partners to develop business opportunities leading to over $400,000 in revenues.

"The UB CAT plays an important role in connecting emerging companies with the people and resources they need to help grow, or in this case, reinvent themselves as part of the region's high-tech economy," said Marnie LaVigne, PhD, UB associate vice president of economic development. "The progress that QuaDPharma has made in a short time demonstrates the value of making these connections, and how the relationships that result can yield significant benefits for companies and Western New York."

"Being a startup company, the partnership with UB has been vital to the success of QuaDPharma," Panaro said. "Looking back, the networking and business that we were able to obtain through our relationship with UB helped us to get through our first two years. This business has been the foundation of revenue for the company as we look to expand."

Panaro said QuaDPharma hopes to add dozens of employees over the next five years, and grow its customer base to include clients around the country. The firm's solid track record has drawn the attention of the Western New York business community and a participating investor from outside the region.

"We were impressed by the management team and their ability to produce revenues in their first year of operations," said Pete Grum, president of Rand Capital. "When we called their customers, many who are in the local area, we learned that they were satisfied, had received exceptional service, and anticipated increasing their business with QuaDPharma. This fit our investment profile of strong management, a growing company and opportunities for Rand to assist in the success of a company."