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October 5, 2022

‘We’re gonna save millions of lives,’ says Grand Rapids company offering advanced cancer treatment

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Originally posted on MLive by Brian McVicar


GRAND RAPIDS, MI — Four years after launching, BAMF Health has opened its global headquarters on Grand Rapids’ Medical Mile, and it’s now diagnosing and treating prostate cancer patients with what officials say is the “world’s most advanced technology.”

Speaking Wednesday, the company’s founder and CEO, Dr. Anthony Chang, described how BAMF is using high-tech imaging equipment to detect cancer at its earliest stages and molecular-level drugs to treat the cancer while minimizing damage to surrounding tissue.

“We’re gonna save millions of lives,” Chang said, as he described BAMF Health’s plans to expand to Detroit and other locations throughout the U.S. in coming years.

He spoke Wednesday during the opening ceremony for the company’s global headquarters.

The event was attended by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, U.S. Rep. Peter Meijer, Doug Meijer, Dr. Norman Beauchamp of Michigan State University, as well as state and local elected officials. During the ceremony, they highlighted the impact they say BAMF is having on healthcare in Grand Rapids and beyond, as well as its journey from a startup to a company with national ambitions.

Since this summer, the company has treated over 30 patients who have come to Grand Rapids from “all over the nation,” Chang said. BAMF’s advanced medial imaging equipment can shorten a 40-minute scan to one minute.

“We actually have patients … we told them we have a slot open tomorrow, they booked tickets from Arizona tonight,” he said.

BAMF’s headquarters is located on the first, second and seventh floors of the newly built Doug Meijer Medical Innovation Building, 109 Michigan St. NW. The company, which was launched in 2018, has about 60 employees in Grand Rapids. Chang announced Wednesday that he’s working to open a location in Detroit, and would like to expand to other U.S. cities in the future.

Inside, BAMF’s headquarters boasts a sleek interior.

An array of waiting and treatment rooms on the first and second floors are illuminated with soft, white light, and feature sliding glass doors, TVs, and more. Designer light fixtures and furniture from Herman Miller fill the lobby and other areas.

The idea, said Dr. Brandon Mancini, medical director of the Grand Rapids clinic, is to provide a comfortable environment during treatment or while patients wait for an injection of radioactive tracers— used during the imaging process to detect cancer — to take effect.

“We’re trying to redefine what it is to receive not only cancer therapy, but just the medical convention in general,” he said. “We want to take people away from the sterility of medical procedures or that experience. We want them to feel more at home.”

Other unique features abound as well.

Windows in the building are lined with lead to prevent the spread of radiation. So, too, is some furniture in the building, which was designed for BAMF by Herman Miller, Mancini said.

“Whenever you can block radiation, you should,” he said. “So really it’s just taking every opportunity to reduce exposure.”

BAMF’s offices for its executives and other administrative staff are located on the buildings seventh floor, which boasts an open-office environment with sweeping views of the Grand River and the city’s Monroe North neighborhood.

As of now, BAMF can diagnose a variety of cancers, but its treatment is limited to prostate cancer and neuroendocrine cancer. But the company is working to build its offerings, Whitmer said.

Speaking during the opening ceremony, she highlighted the company’s goal of building a platform to address breast, brain and colon cancer, as well as neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, and blood disorders.

Whitmer also said the company will “drive” more research and development by partnering with medical schools, health systems, and cancer research institutes.

“By bringing technology and know-how to Michigan, BAMF will increase accessibility to affordable, advanced life-saving care for everyone,” she said.

Chang came to Grand Rapids from San Antonio, Texas, in 2010 to create the molecular imaging program at the Van Andel Institute.

He said the cost of BAMF’s new headquarters, excluding the building itself, was between $60 million and $80 million.

The Doug Meijer Medical Innovation Building, where BAMF’s headquarters is housed, opened in late 2021. It was created as part of a public-private partnership with Michigan State University, Rockford Construction, MB Real Estate, and Walsh Construction/Walsh Investors. In addition to BAMF, the building is expected to house other tenants focused on healthcare research and innovation.

Doug Meijer, whose family founded the Meijer grocery store chain, is a prostate cancer survivor, and a supporter of Chang and BAMF Health. He and the Meijer Foundation donated $19.5 million to MSU to help open the Doug Meijer Medical Innovation Building and purchase equipment for BAMF.

Speaking during the grand opening, Meijer recalled how he traveled to Germany to receive the care that’s now being offered by BAMF. He said he supported the company financially because he wanted to make sure the same treatment he received was accessible to people in Michigan.

“It truly is remarkable medicine,” he said, recalling a recent BAMF Health patient. “We had a gentleman that came in in a wheelchair on morphine, had the cancer treatment, came back the next day for a scan, walked in without the morphine.”

“It’s just one of those truly remarkable things,” Meijer added.

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