A small biotech company with roots in Rochester, New York, has opened an office on Deer Park Drive looking to expand its lab operations into the U.S.
Wayne Patton co-founded KareBay Biochem along with Drew Dai in 2011, when both were working for other companies in Rochester. KareBay specializes in providing high-tech services supporting drug discovery and biotech research. That includes making small molecules and peptides that universities and drug company labs need in order to research drugs.
Until now most of the company’s work has been done in a laboratory in China. Only three of the company’s employees currently work in the United States, with the other 40 or so working overseas, where the actual chemicals are produced.
But all that is changing. This summer KareBay opened a small office on Deer Park Drive with a business development specialist drumming up business with American companies. Now the company is looking for a second round of funding that will allow it to expand its stateside lab space over the next year and establish a larger presence in the U.S.
Patton says having the lab in China poses unique challenges for leading a company. First is the language barrier. While Dai speaks Chinese, Patton does not. Yet he still must find a way to lead the company. As for the Chinese team, “I can’t even say English is their second language,” Patton says. “Maybe it’s their third language.”
Patton has to communicate through a translator. Distance and time also pose challenges. There is a 12-hour difference, so phone conferences are often held around 9 p.m. EST, when the Chinese team is just starting its workday. Patton visits the lab about four times a year just to interact with the team and get face time.
Despite those difficulties, he says, the company has been successful, and has found a niche in the industry. KareBay specializes in clinical animal testing, providing small molecules or peptides that are most useful early on in the testing process. The company’s long-range goal is to keep those same customers and produce chemicals for them all through the development pipeline to the point where the drugs reach commercial production.
The company got its start when Dai and Patton were working for Enzo Life Sciences in Farmingdale, New York. Patton has 25 years of experience in the industry at various biotech companies, and Dai had previously worked at Kodak. KareBay was Dai’s idea.
“He recognized an opportunity in peptides and small molecules to start a business,” Patton says. “He had the idea for it. I was transitioning out of Enzo, which had been downsizing for several years, and he approached me about the opportunity.”
Patton grew up in Massachusetts, where his father was a physicist who worked for Sylvania on lighting research and his mother was a software engineer who wrote missile guidance code for Raytheon.
The company was founded in Rochester and moved to Monmouth Junction last month. Patton lives on Long Island with his wife and daughter and faces a three-hour daily commute to the new location. But despite the inconvenience for the company brass, central New Jersey offers advantages for a new biotech company. “We thought there was the right mix of a workforce that could engage in our programs, and easy access to Philadelphia, Boston and New York City,” Patton says.
Patton says he believes the company is poised to grow. “We definitely got our start in China, but we have an international collection of customers. We have a few customers in the U.S., and a few customers in Europe, and as we expand our sales force we expect more.”
KareBay Biochem Inc., 1 Deer Park Drive, Suite 204, Monmouth Junction 08852; 732-823-1545; www.karebaybio.com.