NZ biotech setting up US lab, HQ

David Darling
David Darling
Dunedin-based biotech company Pacific Edge is setting up its United States commercial laboratory and headquarters for its diagnostic bladder cancer test in Pennsylvania, within the Hershey Centre for Applied Research, a university and technology research facility.

The lab, located in the Hershey Centre technology park, will service urologists and GPs throughout the US.

Pacific Edge, which has spent more than $15.7 million on research and development on cancer diagnostics during the past decade, recapitalised itself and raised $20.1 million last year, the latter to commercialise its Cxbladder cancer test.

Pacific Edge is to receive more than $US2.3 million ($NZ2.79 million) in grants and incentives from the state of Pennsylvania's business division, the Economic Development Administration of the Department of Commerce, to build and fit out its lab in the centre.

Pacific Edge chief executive David Darling said the company had been working with the state government and the Hershey Centre for the the past two and a-half years on its commercial strategy.

The centre is funded by chocolate giant Hershey's $US600 billion trust fund for disadvantaged children.

"This [Hershey Centre move] really is the icing on the cake, a cake that has been in the making for a long time," Mr Darling said yesterday.

The move into the tech park was "great news" for Pacific Edge's shareholders, as it required only a "small capital outlay" for the company because of the $US2.3 million received in grants, he said.

"This is a huge opportunity for us as the US healthcare market is one of the largest in the world.

Having a laboratory significantly funded by grants and incentives lowers our market-entry risks getting established in the US," Mr Darling said.

While the Hershey Centre would become Pacific Edge's US "operating headquarters", all research and product development would remain in Dunedin, Mr Darling said.

"The core team is here and the [New Zealand parent company's] head office remains in Dunedin," he said.

Construction of the facility was under way, and Pacific Edge expected it to be completed by August, with potentially up to 100 full-time staff employed over three years.

Pacific Edge's Cxbladder product is a quick, non-invasive urine-sample test to diagnose bladder cancer and for prognostic use in cancer monitoring.

While recently having won contracts in several other countries, Pacific Edge's focus is on the lab in Pennsylvania, which should be operational by the end of the year, with the capacity to deliver 250,000 tests a year to US GPs and urologists.

Cxbladder was also being marketed to urologists in New Zealand and Australia, with Spain and Portugal to be targeted soon, Mr Darling said.

The almost five-year-old Hershey Centre is an emerging commercial base for technology companies, targeting life sciences, nanotechnology and clean-tech companies, from early-stage to mature businesses, to assist them to grow.

It is in partnership with Pennsylvania State University and the Pennsylvania State Milton S.

Hershey Medical Centre, and its tenants have access to advanced technology and other research resources, described by Mr Darling as a "technology hub".

Being based at the centre had many advantages for Pacific Edge, as there has recently been a world-class cancer research facility established nearby, he said.

The lab is close to New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington DC, which have a combined population of 58 million, and international carrier Fed Ex's largest US hub is only 25 minutes from the centre.

The centre leases customised research, manufacturing, commercial and office space and also offers strategic business services tailored to each tenant.

Pacific Edge will occupy 1050sq m of space for offices and a processing facility for analysis of its Cxbladder test programme.

The Hershey Centre has more than 7400sq m of laboratory and office space and there are eight other tenants.

Last month, Pacific Edge was one of five New Zealand companies invited to attend the US' largest healthcare conference, held in San Francisco, for the third consecutive year.

There were about 340 bio-tech-related companies at the conference, all of which were hoping to attract interest from potential partners in a variety of fields.

simon.hartley@odt.co.nz

 

 

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