Epichem’s Formula for Success and WA Connections

What do you get when you combine eighteen years of experience, a team packed full of stellar PhD trained chemists, focused business strategies and a commitment to high quality service? Epichem Pty Ltd – a Western Australian company consistently recognised as one of the state’s top exporters and one of Australia’s most esteemed PhD employers.

Epichem is an Australian company formed in 2003 to provide services in synthetic and medicinal chemistry to the drug discovery and pharmaceutical industries. With a state-of-the-art laboratory in Technology Park, Western Australia, Epichem serves an international clientele ranging from small operations to large multinational pharmaceutical companies.

When former Epichem CEO Colin La Galia reflects on the journey of the company over the past eighteen years, he emphasises the two objectives that the company was founded on.

“First, meet an unmet need of the marketplace at the time, and that was around providing commercial medicinal chemistry services,” Mr La Galia said.

“The second, provide employment opportunities for PhD qualified chemists, who at the time were being lost to overseas, or having to work in sectors outside their skill set.”

These objectives have remained pillars upon which the company has based its business focus.

“Fast forward eighteen years, and now we’ve got two purpose-built, state of the art laboratories, employing a team of PhD qualified chemists and postgrads across a number of chemistry disciplines, including medicinal chemistry, synthetic organic chemistry, materials science and analytical chemistry.”

As the featured speaker at the MTPConnect Ribit Speed Networking for Jobs event, Mr La Galia spoke of the employment opportunities in WA for PhD students – not just for the students themselves, but for WA businesses to engage with talented researchers eager to apply their skills.

It is something the company strongly believes in, with Mr La Galia stating, “The one thing I never want our team to lose sight of is that this business was started eighteen years ago to provide a forum or a platform for chemists to apply their trade and do their best work.”

The company has been recognized as one of the leading employees of PhD qualified professionals in the medical and technology sector in Australia.

Epichem has also been recognised by the Australian Export and Investment Award as WA Exporter of the year multiple times, most recently in 2021. Notably, the company was one of only eight companies in Australia recognised for outstanding resilience in the face of major COVID disruptions in 2020. During the pandemic, the company undertook manufacturing of medical grade hand sanitiser which was donated to the local community, and assisted several local distilleries in pivoting to hand sanitiser production as well.

MTPConnect Director of Stakeholder Engagement WA Dr Tracey Wilkinson says that Epichem’s evolution over the past years is testament to the company’s commitment to high quality personnel and service, which other WA companies can learn from.

“We have resources in WA that are too often overlooked and untapped,” Dr Wilkinson said. “Not only in physical resources like our first-class laboratories and research facilities, but also in our local expertise and the potential partnerships that come from consistent internal referencing.

“Epichem is a great example of how success can be born and fostered whilst staying firmly embedded in the WA ecosystem.”

The Epichem team have engaged closely with the MTPConnect WA LIfe Sciences Innovation Hub (WA Hub) over the years, including Ribit Speed Networking for Jobs (2020), BioKorea (2021) delegation, being featured on the MTPConnect Podcast (2021) which has listeners in 72 countries, and at WA Hub roundtables. The WA Hub has also assisted Epichem with recruiting new staff.

Notably, Mr La Galia spoke alongside OncoRes Medical’s Dr Simon Graindorge at the June 2021 WA MTP Sector Spotlight Series about how international commercialisation learnings can be applied to the WA sector.

Mr La Galia highlights the Spotlight Series as a particular stand out activity from the WA Hub, and vital to growing the local ecosystem

“I think the networking – be it either the Spotlight Series or making introductions, knowing “who’s who in the zoo” or part of the network – is huge.”

Dr Wilkinson says that this sentiment has been loudly echoed from stakeholders who have attended the monthly networking events.

“The Spotlight Series provides an opportunity for the WA sector to look to our leaders and local success stories, to share the knowledge and connections that are so vital to growth.

We have students, entrepreneurs, clinicians and career researchers attend our events – all passionate about changing the lives of patients and building successful ventures," said Dr Wilkinson.

In 2022, companies like PYC Therapeutics, Emyria, Nuheara and Brandon Capital have been featured at the WA Hub's Spotlight events, and there are more dynamic conversations with WA MTP organisations on the horizon.

Like Epichem, many of these organisations are pleased to connect with the WA Hub, and keen to keep opportunities on shore and build local capacity in the MTP sector.