CORALVILLE, Iowa—The National Genecular Institute (NGI) and The University of Iowa last month announced plans to build a new 80,000-square-foot research center and business incubator at UI's Oakdale Research Campus. When completed in early 2008, the building will serve as a regional headquarters for Newport Beach, Calif.-based NGI while UI will gain a new Technology Innovation Center with the wet lab space it currently needs in order to attract life sciences companies to the area.
"There are certainly a number of regions and universities in this country looking to attract these kinds of companies," says Tom Sharpe, associate VP for economic development for UI. "But we believe that our strong medical school and its reputation for clinical trials, as well other areas of support, will make this very attractive for biotech companies that are just starting out."
For NGI—the R&D subsidiary of skin care company Dermacia—the opportunity to open a regional headquarters in Iowa was made more attractive by a number of both state and local tax incentives and financing. Further, the company's CSO, Dr. Tannin Fuja, is a member of the faculty at the university.
"Being here in Iowa was certainly one consideration," Fuja says. "But also very attractive to us was a cash rebate from the state that is related to the amount of dollars we spend on R&D. It was an incentive that we found in very few other states." NGI's R&D operation will focus initially on discovering and developing skin and cancer therapeutics "at the molecular level," he notes.
In addition to the new regional HQ, NGI also announced plans to simultaneously develop a new genetic material biobanking facility in nearby Iowa City. In all, NGI anticipates the cost of the two projects will be upward of $26 million and will add more than 180 jobs to the local economy over the next five years.