Aldevron: Building Biotech on Trust & Talent

*This post was written for the Biotech in Wisconsin blog and is cross posted here.*

If you aren’t familiar with Aldevron’s story, you might wonder why a North Dakota biotech company choose Wisconsin for their expansion plan. The answers are trust and talent.

From the Midwest to the Black Forest and Back

In the late 1990’s, two scientists graduated from North Dakota State University and started Aldevron in lab space rented from the university. John Ballantyne and Michael Chambers began by making DNA for vaccines and gene therapy, and built a thriving DNA services company. Looking to diversify and expand, Aldevron acquired GENOVAC in 2004, a German antibody company whose DNA immunization technology held promise for overcoming limitations of traditional antibody development. When the company was ready for the next step, Aldevron found its growth opportunity through an existing connection in Wisconsin.

Importance of RelationshipsFoti

Tom Foti, who knew Michael Chambers from the NDSU biotech program they graduated from, had been running a protein services business in Madison. When that company announced plans early in 2009 to consolidate operations in San Diego, Tom and Michael saw an opportunity and took action. By establishing a site in Madison, Aldevron acquired a team of experienced people and protein manufacturing expertise to compliment its DNA and antibody services in Fargo and Frieburg. “Michael and I stayed in touch after NDSU and over the years developed professional trust and respect that was critical,” says Tom Foti, General Manager and VP at Aldevron. “Michael was willing to take a risk and back the ready-to-go protein operation in Madison instead of building from scratch in Fargo.”

Aldevron in Madison

By the end of 2009, the Aldevron Madison site opened, completing Aldevron’s triad of service platforms for the life science industry. Since its first sale in October of 2009, the Madison team has completed over 250 projects for clients in 10 countries.

AldevronBldg

The Madison Team now resides in a newly built facility with 7,200 square feet optimally designed for the development and production of recombinant proteins. The facility allows for segregated manufacturing and offers room for expansion, which will be critical as the business grows. According to Foti, Aldevron is now focused on integrating its three platforms into a comprehensive portfolio of development, manufacturing and storage services. “This approach offers large companies a logistical solution to the challenges of production, storage and provisioning of DNA, antibody and protein reagents,” says Foti.

Connecting Members of the Life Science Community

The pace of pharmaceutical companies shifting R&D efforts to partners and service providers is increasing and Aldevron sees this as a real market opportunity. Aldevron works for all of the top 15 pharmaceutical companies including Novartis, where researchers at five global sites rely on all three of Aldevron’s service platforms. Ian Hunt, the Head of the Center for Proteomic Chemistry for Novartis, will visit Aldevron in Madison and looks forward to meeting Madison’s biotech community through the Bioforward breakfast hosted by Aldevron. “We want to foster opportunities to connect, generate ideas and develop productive partnerships,” says Foti. “With the number life sciences community members travelling to Madison for business, we should make the most of these opportunities to connect and build relationships.”

As we make more of these connections, we increase the probability that others will see and seize opportunities to build biotech in Wisconsin.

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