A Boca Raton-based biomanufacturing company has expanded to Sarasota and plans to establish its roots in the community.
Biotechnology Akron Bio, which manufactures materials for use in vaccines and therapies, opened a 54,000-square-foot Sarasota research and development center earlier this year at 600 Tallevast Road, Suite 201.
"We believe that Florida is a key player in biosciences," said Dolores Baksh, vice president of commercial at Akron BioManufacturing, the company's biomanufacturing business. "There's a budding science community, a phenomenal hospital network, and area universities, locally and in the state. We think this community will be an attractive pull for talent, coupled with the attractive business landscape in Florida."
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At its Sarasota research and development facility, Akron Bio scientists make a critical biological building block called plasmid DNA.
The product, which is a biological material found in E. Coli bacteria, can be used as ancillary material for the making of cell therapy, gene therapy and vaccines. Akron Bio makes E.Coli in its Sarasota lab through a microbial fermentation process in order to manufacture the DNA.
Once introduced into a therapeutic, plasmid DNA can return normal function to cells and genes, thereby preventing diseases like cystic fibrosis, cardiovascular diseases, and cancers. It can also be used in the making of vaccines.
Akron Bio sells plasmid DNA to pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, who can use it as a critical starting material in the clinical trial process and all the way through commercialization.
There are hundreds of clinical trials in the pipeline in the pharmaceutical industry, Baksh said, so there's a vast need for plasmid DNA. Akron Bio's role is to make sure there's plenty of supply to help develop potentially lifesaving therapies.
"We are answering this call at Akron Bio by providing critical starting materials, so the industry can have more supply," she said.
The company's existing Tallevast plant is just the first phase of its Sarasota footprint. Akron Bio plans to double its space with a 50,000-square-foot addition and to add 50 employees by the end of the year. Baksh said that number should double again in 2023.
A lot of recruiting has been done at Florida colleges, but Akron Bio has also looked at candidates from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stamford University, and Texas A&M University, Baksh said. Akron Bio hired a seasoned senior staff of 15 to 20 employees, she said, but outside of that, the company is investing in recent college graduates.
"We’re investing in building in that skillset, training them and demonstrating to them how they can grow in different roles we have in the organization," she said.
The ultimate goal is to support the clinical trial pipeline in the pharmaceutical industry, Baksh said.
"These advanced therapies are life-saving therapies," she said.
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This article originally appeared on Sarasota Herald-Tribune: Biomanufacturing company comes to Sarasota and plans expansion