Biovest to Hire 40 Workers at Future Plant on The Hill
December 15, 2006Biovest to hire 40 workers at future plant on The HillSt. Louis Business Journal
By James Goodwin
A St. Louis plant in the works will hire 40 employees, including scientists, who will make $25 million worth of medical devices a year at full production.
Biovest International Inc., based in Worcester, Mass., had been considering a Midtown location but instead will renovate a building at 1701 Macklind Ave., on The Hill.
There, the company will make an instrument named AutovaxID, which saves time and labor by automating the production of cells for making vaccines and for other uses.
Biovest will move production of the medical instruments from the Minneapolis area to the 24,000-square-foot building in St. Louis, owned by Spruce LLC, by March.
"It certainly was very good for us," Dr. Frank O'Donnell said of the decision to move the plant. "And hopefully it's going to be good for the city of St. Louis too." O'Donnell, an area resident, is chairman and chief executive of Biovest's parent company, Accentia Biopharmaceuticals Inc., based in Tampa, Fla.
He said the St. Louis facility will employ about 40 scientists, engineers and line workers from the area and elsewhere.
Biovest announced in May that it had received federal approval to begin commercial sales of the AutovaxID.
Each device will sell for $30,000 to $40,000. The instrument requires a disposable part costing $3,000 to $4,000, and the average user will need six to 10 of those parts a year, O'Donnell said.
Biovest will lease and renovate the St. Louis building through the sale of $8 million worth of New Markets Tax Credits received through the St. Louis Development Corp. U.S. Bank purchased the credits, according to Biovest.
Biovest is also planning a second, larger facility to produce BiovaxID, a non-Hodgkin's lymphoma vaccine that's in the final phase of clinical development. St. Louis is competing for the $80 million laboratory against Tampa. It could employ 300 people, O'Donnell said in September.
"We're leaning toward Tampa for the BiovaxID commercial facility because they're really putting a hard press on it," he said at the time. "They're trying to round up all kinds of benefits to being in Tampa."
O'Donnell said recently that a decision had yet to be made.
The St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times previously reported that Accentia, through Biovest, was pursuing part of $10.5 million that the University of South Florida hoped to get from the state of Florida to create a biomolecular medicine center. Biovest's vaccine plant also would qualify for Florida state tax credits of up to $3,000 for each job created, according to the newspaper.
O'Donnell said in September that the smaller AutovaxID production facility would go near the Center of Research and Technology and Entrepreneurial Expertise, or CORTEX, in Midtown. However, the location on The Hill proved more suitable, the company said.
Both areas qualify for federal New Markets Tax Credits. Administered by the U.S. Treasury Department, the program provides a 39 percent credit to offset federal income taxes for seven years for investors in projects in low-income areas.