October 20, 2023

CU grad founder brings Umoja Biopharma to Louisville

LOUISVILLE — One of the founders of Umoja Biopharma Inc., a Seattle-born oncological cell therapy developer that recently established a large research and development and manufacturing operation in Louisville, is no stranger to Boulder County. 

“Started my drug-development career off” at the University of Colorado Boulder, Umoja co-founder and chief technical officer Ryan Crisman told BizWest, where he got his doctorate degree in engineering. ‘I actually wanted to stay in Boulder” after school. 

Instead, his career track took him first to Washington for leadership roles in several life-sciences firms, then into an entirely different industry.

“I started a brewery, because that’s what engineers do in Colorado,” he said, and Crisman and a group of co-founders launched Long Table Brewhouse in Denver’s Park Hill neighborhood.

In 2019, Crisman and partners turned back toward the biotech space and founded Umoja in Seattle.

As the company has advanced its in-vivo T-cell reprogramming therapies, Umoja has scoured the country for expansion opportunities. 

“We did a big search for where the best place was to build our development and manufacturing building,” Crisman said. “We looked at Boston, San Francisco, Seattle, San Diego and ultimately we ended on Colorado.”

Compared with more established biotech hubs on the coast, Boulder “is an untapped market in terms of talent” coming out of local universities and laboratories. “There’s a ton of experience in drug development” among Boulder-area companies and workers. “There’s a long history of knowing how to take products from the (lab) bench to clinicals to commercial in Colorado.”

The company ultimately landed on a space in the Colorado Laboratory & Innovative Manufacturing Building at 725 Tech Court in Louisville.

Umoja’s roughly 60-person Colorado workforce is initially operating out of 77,000 square feet, which houses R&D, office and production functions. The company has access to a total of 146,000 square feet in which it can expand.

“It’s just really inefficient” to always be scrambling to find more space, Crisman said, “so I wanted to make sure we have the footprint to be able to expand within one facility.”

Umoja expects its first manufacturing run of clinical material in the first quarter of 2024.

LOUISVILLE — One of the founders of Umoja Biopharma Inc., a Seattle-born oncological cell therapy developer that recently established a large research and development and manufacturing operation in Louisville, is no stranger to Boulder County. 

“Started my drug-development career off” at the University of Colorado Boulder, Umoja co-founder and chief technical officer Ryan Crisman told BizWest, where he got his doctorate degree in engineering. ‘I actually wanted to stay in Boulder” after school. 

Instead, his career track took him first to Washington for leadership roles in several life-sciences firms, then into an entirely different industry.

“I started a brewery, because that’s what engineers…

Lucas High
A Maryland native, Lucas has worked at news agencies from Wyoming to South Carolina before putting roots down in Colorado.
Sign up for BizWest Daily Alerts