Editor’s note: Allan Maurer cover the biotechnology and life science sectors for LTW.Richard Seline, a former U.S. Dept. of Commerce official, got stuck at the airport and failed to make his keynote at last week’s Triad Biotech Forum, but the event was really a swan song for Pilot Therapeutics, which is moving to South Carolina.
Seline’s talk was to explore what technology driven business and economic models mean to regions such as the Triad, which are trying to compete for more business from the worldwide biotechnology industry.
But with formerly Winston-Salem based Pilot Therapeutics lured to South Carolina, the mood in the Triad is bittersweet. Pilot, which makes a new asthma treatment, not only is taking its jobs to South Carolina but also takes along founder, president and chief executive, Floyd “Ski” Chilton is a dynamic and familiar figure in Triad Biotech events.
“Everyone was saying, geez, we have to lose Pilot just a point where it is about to be successful,” says Charles Tuttle, executive director of the Piedmont Entrepreneurs Network.
But Tuttle says he understands the problem. “Some of these companies, public and private, can’t get the money they need to proceed even though they have excellent data. Pilot and Amplistar have excellent data, but they’re struggling. (Amplistar is a genomics company focused on identifying potential antibodies for cancer.)
“From an entrepreneurial standpoint, these guys have to be inventive and adaptive,” Tuttle says. “Pilot couldn’t get a cash infusion, South Carolina came knocking with cash in hand, North Carolina responds but with no cash in hand and Pilot had no choice but to go where the money was.”
South Carolina offered Pilot a $16 million incentives package to lure it to build an $8 million manufacturing plant in Orangeburg, SC. (See related story link below.)
But the Triad is hardly surrendering. Tuttle says the biotech forum breakfasts in the Triad, which introduce various players in the region to each other, means that, “Some are now doing business together.” He says one local biotech has been going to Switzerland to get chemical synthesis done but may now do it locally because of the meetings.
Tuttle also says the Triad is lobbying hard for a satellite office of the North Carolina Biotechnology Center. “But that needs legislative money to do and if they do it here, they’ll have to think about doing it in Asheville, Charlotte, and East Carolina.”
Triad May Get $40 million facility
Also, Tuttle says, even though Pilot is leaving the Triad, an Atlanta company, Kinetic Biosystems Inc., has picked the region for a $40 million contract biomanufacturing plant for its KBI BioPharma division.
To succeed, the deal requires local and state officials to come up with a financing plan to help with construction costs. KBI Chief Executive Tony Laughrey has said the company does not want to spend the extra rent it would cost to locate in the Triangle and is sold on the Triad.
The KBI plant would employ up to 150 workers initially on a 10-acre site with 30,000 square feet of manufacturing space. KBI, which has already opened a small Greensboro office, says it has customers lined up to use the plant on opening late in 2004 or early 2005. Eventually, the plan may employ as many as 500 workers making drugs for clinical trials.
If the deal goes through, it would be the largest industrial project in the Triad since RF Micro Devices erected a $70 million factory to make electronics parts in 1996.
South Carolina’s Package To Land Pilot Therapeutics Tops $16M: www.localtechwire.com/article.cfm?u=2672&k=29&l=17