IONTOX Wins Award For Michigan Smartzone Business of The Year

Tucked away in a building on the campus of the Business, Technology, Research Park off of Parkview Avenue is a biotech company that is putting Kalamazoo on the map.

IONTOX LLC, located in the BTR Park’s WMed Innovation Center, was recently named a Best Small Business by the Michigan Economic Development Corp. during its annual Michigan Celebrates Small Business awards celebration which was held virtually on July 28. IONTOX was nominated in the SmartZone category by Sandra Cochrane, Assistant Dean of the Innovation Center.

While the award is important, Cochrane said the real value is the recognition that IONTOX has secured its place among the state’s top-tier biotech companies.

“The MEDC is holding them up as an example of what they consider a great startup company,” Cochrane said. “Their business model is strong with a great structure which is why they have been able to make tremendous strides in a relatively short amount of time.”

Even though she has had the opportunity every year since the awards program first began 16 years ago, Cochrane said there have been years when she hasn’t put in a nomination because she didn’t see a company that checked all the boxes. This year, she said, there was no doubt in her mind that IONTOX would be her nominee.

“When I look at my portfolio of companies, it’s not every year that I have one that’s truly exemplary,” she said. “I consider IONTOX this year to be the company that has achieved the most and is a startup company that is doing everything right.”
IONTOX was founded in 2014 by James McKim, PhD. Its focus is on the creation of improved methods for predicting human adverse effects from chemical exposure. The company serves a global client base that includes the pharmaceutical, cosmetic, chemical, tobacco, and food additive industries.

While maintaining its core business, the company has expanded its scope with the development of COVID-19 antibody test kits that are being made available to hospitals, academic institutions, and laboratories which seek the capability to screen individuals for the Coronavirus antibodies. One kit has the capacity to test up to 152 individuals for a “yes” or “no” as to whether or not that person has the antibodies or 76 individuals to determine the quantity of antibodies they may have.

McKim said he is humbled by the MEDC’s recognition of his company as being among the state’s top small startup businesses, but said the real takeaway for him is a validation that he is on the right track with the products and services he is providing to domestic and international clients.

“When I was formulating a business plan for IONTOX I knew it would need to be nimble with the capability to pivot to address emerging needs in the healthcare sector,” McKim said. “These test kits are building on our capacity to create entry points into areas of need which will grow as we continue to find ways to manage this pandemic.”

IONTOX is the second startup founded by McKim. Shortly after leaving Pfizer Corp. in 2003 he founded Ceetox. Also located in the BTR Park, he sold that company in 2013.

Michigan’s small businesses are the lifeblood of local economies and play a vital role in making communities throughout the state attractive places to live, work, visit and play, said Josh Hundt, Chief Business Development Officer for the MEDC.
“As the state continues to recover from the COVID-19 outbreak, we are honored to recognize and celebrate these small businesses, which demonstrate the resilience, innovation and grit that sets Michigan apart,” Hundt said.

Cochrane said recognitions like this reflect well, not just on the companies selected but also on the communities they call home. She said the ability to highlight IONTOX and previous awardees plays a critical role in her efforts to attract new businesses.

“The ability to hold up IONTOX as an example showcases and elevates our SmartZone and makes us more visible,” she said. “(McKim) has really made a lot of traction with IONTOX this year. He started one company and had a great exit with that one and is now having a successful run with another company. I love to be able to tell those stories.”