Anthony Chang was unfamiliar with Grand Rapids when he was invited to a recruiting tour for the Van Andel Institute while studying as a graduate student at the University of Texas’ Health Science Center at San Antonio.
A decade after he joined the Institute as a researcher, Chang is now basing his promising medical technology startup company, BAMF Health Inc., in Grand Rapids with plans to launch an advanced cancer treatment this summer and expand across the U.S. in the years ahead.
Chang, who came to the U.S. from Taiwan 20 years ago, decided to base the company in Grand Rapids as part of the Medical Mile research, health care and education cluster that has the “critical factors” for BAMF Health, he said. The company illustrates that a world-class, medical technology company can start in Grand Rapids, commercialize a new technology, and grow from here, Chang said.
BAMF HEALTH INC.
Top executive: Anthony Chang, founder and CEO
Total Michigan employees: 60
Company description: Grand Rapids-based medical technology startup
“I like the concept of the Medical Mile. As a scientist, I always believed that a scientist’s job is not to publish papers. A scientist’s job is to adapt technologies to impact human lives,” Chang said. “The Medical Mile idea will have great potential and allow us to bring technology in the lab directly to the patients.”
Basing the headquarters and flagship clinic in Grand Rapids won BAMF Health — short for Bold Advanced Medical Future — a MiBiz 2022 M&A Deals and Dealmakers of the Year Award in the life sciences category.
BAMF Health began work last summer on the $30 million global headquarters, advanced cyclotron-equipped radiopharmacy, and molecular imaging and theranostics clinics that will open this summer in the Doug Meijer Medical Innovation Building on Michigan State University’s Grand Rapids Innovation Park research campus. The headquarters and clinics should eventually employ 200 people.
The clinics will use radiopharmaceuticals for molecular imaging and artificial intelligence to provide an advanced cancer treatment that can diagnose and precisely target radiation therapy for tumors and allows BAMF Health to customize treatment to the patient.
Chang envisions opening 30 to 50 clinics across the country over the next three to five years. BAMF Health is already preparing for a second, smaller clinic at Loma Linda University in California.
“This is an international project, but we’re going to start from Michigan,” said Chang, who previously served as the founding director of the Laboratory of Translational Imaging at Van Andel Research Institute.
“We’re building a nationwide network to make this technology accessible and affordable to the patients,” he said. “Grand Rapids will be our flagship site and it will be our very first site in the nation, but we’re going to actually build a whole network around the nation because one site will never be able to fulfill the need.”
Chang formed BAMF Health in 2018 to bring the medical technology, which has been in use in Germany, to the U.S.
The company is “pretty close” to completing a $30 million Series B capital round to open the Grand Rapids clinic, prepare for other locations, and continue research and development on the medical technology, which can potentially treat other illnesses such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and cardiovascular disease.
Investors in the Series B capital round include the Grand Rapids-based New Community Transformation Fund that invested $500,000. Waséyabek Development Co. LLC, the non-gaming economic development arm of the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi, invested $3 million in BAMF Health in November 2021.
Waséyabek CEO Deidra Mitchell met Chang at an event hosted by the West Michigan CEO Council.
“I have a biology background, and so my ears really perked up. … We always said that the way we try to treat cancer is really barbaric. It’s just so damaging to the body in the traditional capacity,” Mitchell said. “And then Anthony was telling me about the very targeted cancer treatments and the success rate, and that it wasn’t a technology that had not been proven, that they actually had been practicing in Germany for a while, and then their desire to base it in Grand Rapids. Then you think about tribes and how they’ve not had the greatest health care over time and they have some inherent health problems in their population. It just kind of all came together.”
When Waséyabek considered investing in BAMF Health, “there was no argument about, ‘Should we not do this?’ It was like, ‘How fast can we get involved in this and support this effort?’” Mitchell said.
To Chang, BAMF Health is not just a company but a “mission” to advance medical technology.
Chang looks to build BAMF Health into a “very big solid, successful company so we can keep advancing technology to offer the best care to the patients.”
“We’re here to make a solid foundation that allows us to bring the latest technology to the patients as soon as possible and that is accessible and affordable, so we can make a very big impact to human health for the coming 20 or 50 years,” he said.