The stakes are rising for Biomedex Inc. and its plans to have a state-of-the-art biotech manufacturing facility built for it near Spokane International Airport.
Company President George Coleman says the young Spokane venture is tightening its relationship with a California pharmaceutical manufacturer for which it has been doing pre-clinical contract processing here. He now believes its likely that Biomedex will be hired to handle the much more significant Phase II clinical-trial processing for the big client.
To accomplish that, however, Biomedex will need the sizable biotech plant that Granite Investments LLC, a company affiliated with Spokane developer Dick Vandervert, has agreed to build for it in a planned new high-tech park on the West Plains. Coleman says final design work has begun on that $15 million, 60,000-square-foot building, and construction should begin this summer.
He says construction should take less than a year, but must be completed by third quarter 2002 so Biomedex can take on the expected new work from the California manufacturer, which he declines to name.
A team of architects and engineers that also designed Immunex Corp.s 1.3 million-square-foot Helix biotech facility in Seattle is working on the planned Biomedex facility, which will need to meet strict U.S. Food and Drug Administration standards.
If the building project is done on time and Biomedex gets the clinical-trial processing work, the companys revenues would grow tenfold and it would need to hire about 120 peoplemost of whom would be paid $40,000 to $70,000 a yearto staff the new plant, Coleman says.
Using biotech industry benchmarks for a facility of that size, he says, the plant will be expected to generate about $40 million in revenue annually.
Coleman says his confidence in Biomedexs prospects with its main California customer is based on two factors. First, a quality-assurance audit team the customer sent to Spokane recently gave Biomedex an A-plus, he says. Second, he adds, because of the shortage of such labs nationally, the customer might have nowhere else to go anyway.
Biomedex, which currently employs 24 people, leases about 4,000 square feet of office and lab space in the Spokane Intercollegiate Research & Technology Institute, where it is holding an open house at 5 p.m. tonight for government and business leaders.
There, Coleman says he hopes visitors will get a glimpse at what a biotech startup looks like and what potential that fast-growing industry might have for Spokane. When we show the community what weve done, we think theyll be surprised, he says.
Biomedex also will announce that it has hired longtime economic-development stalwart Pete Kerwien as director of business development. Kerwien, who retired late last year from Avista Corp., joins a team of scientists and marketers from around the country who have extensive expertise in the pharmaceutical industry. Also working with Biomedex are prominent retired Spokane accountant Gordon Budke and Dr. Robert A. Bud Stier Jr., whose father was co-founder of the original Hollister-Stier allergy compounds manufacturer here.
Biomedex, which was launched less than two years ago, has completed a first-round equity financing of $1 million, and has launched a second round in which it expects to raise another $3 million.
Serving drug companies
Biomedexs main source of revenue currently is the pre-clinical contract processing it is doing. That involves designing and documenting the process by which its customer will manufacture components to be used in new products headed for clinical trial. Biomedex receivesat its SIRTI offices and labboxes of tools and containers to be used in the manufacturing process, goes through the FDA requirements for preparing such equipment for use in processing, and details the steps the manufacturing workers must take during production.
That work was supposed to end in March, but the customer now has extended it until next fall, Coleman says. He declines to disclose the revenue Biomedex is deriving from that work except to say it is in the tens of thousands of dollars a month.
Biomedex also has two products of its own. One, for which it bought exclusive rights to manufacture and market, is a device called the DermaPik II that allergy doctors use to test for the causes of allergic reactions in patients. The product is being made for Biomedex by a contract manufacturer in California, and is being sold directly to physicians offices. Biomedex began shipping the product to about 50 potential customers for evaluation in December, and is starting to pick up orders for the device, Coleman says.
The other product is an alcohol disinfectant for use in sterile labs, but that product has run into manufacturing problems and has yet to garner the company any revenue.
Last month, Biomedex launched another service for pharmaceutical manufacturers in which it does analytical testing on a project basis. For instance, Biomedex now can measure the amount of carbon left over after a test tube or other glass container has been thoroughly sanitized for production. It also can test to see if there are fever-causing toxins present in something that is going to be injected into a patient.
The high-tech park
Meanwhile, work on the high-tech park, to be called the Pacific Northwest Technology Park is slated to begin as soon as winter breaks.
The 152-acre park is to be located south of U.S. 2, east of Boeing Co.s plant, and north of Spokane International Airport. The first buildings in the park will front the highway. They include a $12.5 million, 110,000-square-foot office building; $10 million, 120-room Hilton Gardens hotel; Bank of Whitman branch; and a 4,800-square-foot restaurant, for which a tenant hasnt been named.
Biomedexs facility will be built somewhat southwest of those structures, near Flint Road, which will be extended south from the highway to Airport Drive as part of the overall development. In all, the park eventually is expected to include buildings totaling 1.5 million square feet of floor space and is to cost somewhere between $200 million and $300 million.
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