Cover Story Bio-business In Brief
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In addition to investors, bioscience companies need a skilled labor force to flourish. When Celtaxsys, a biotech startup, was looking for a home base in 2004, Atlanta was a draw because three of its four founders were from the area.
“At the same time, we were concerned about an adequate talent supply,” says Bill Reddick, Celtaxsys’ CEO, explaining that the company needed experienced molecular and cell biologists to implement its research and development plan. “Could we get the right people? That question was answered when we posted our first job listing.”
The company received nearly 150 reponses, with about two-thirds of those applicants possessing the skills and background Celtaxsys was seeking. About half of respondents hailed from the Atlanta region, and half were from out-of-state, Reddick recalls. “So being in Atlanta wasn’t a hindrance, either for finding talent or attracting it,” he says.
Atlanta may not attract as much venture capital as bioscience meccas like Boston and San Diego, but investor activity is increasing.
“We’re just at an earlier stage,” says Lee Herron, general manager of biosciences at Georgia Tech’s Advanced Technology Development Center. “Venture capital follows; it doesn’t lead. We’ll get more VC opportunities as we create more companies.”
BETTER LIFESTYLE, MORE SUPPORT
Ga. Dept. of Economic Development
Atlanta's Piedmont Park
Biotech hotspots like Boston may have a greater concentration of investors and critical mass, but Atlanta has plenty to offer biotech businesses, says Rafael Andino, founder of Biofisica, a medical device company that Andino launched in 2000. “The standard of living is high here, while the cost of living is relatively low compared to other cities something I don’t see Atlanta playing off as much as it could,” Andino says. The weather is also decidedly better than for many other bioscience clusters, he adds.
From an infrastructure perspective, being a member of ATDC’s Biosciences Center is another plus of being in Atlanta. “Besides the exposure to funding sources and service providers, it’s great to be in a facility where almost everyone is in the same situation growing their companies from scratch,” Andino explains. “There’s a tremendous level of energy and excitement. If I could clone myself, I would love to work on two or three other projects that are going on here.”
CHANGE OF VENUE
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Moving can be a major pain, but Altea Therapeutics Corp. is happy to embrace the logistical headache.
Having outgrown its present facility in Tucker, Ga., Altea spent more than two years hunting for new headquarters. Bioscience companies have special mechanical and electrical needs, notes Joe Medlin, vice president of finance, information technology and administration for Altea, which is developing a new breed of transdermal patch. “You can’t go into an existing commercial property and retrofit it very easily,” he adds.
Altea’s search for space ended with Technology Enterprise Park (TEP). When the new research park opens its first building in July 2007, Altea will move into 45,000 square feet on two floors.
With wet labs and HVAC systems designed specifically for bioscience companies, TEP will be a pleasant change of venue for Altea. “We had to do considerable facility bootstrapping in our current location,” Medlin says, referring to such expensive alterations as the addition of ventilation controls, applying epoxy coating to floors and installing lab benches and hoods. “Even so, the location has been far from ideal,” he adds.
Altea occupies four suites scattered throughout the Tucker industrial park, which means the company must maintain four different sets of standard operating procedures. Medlin says, “Being at TEP will enable us to reduce a lot of inefficiencies caused by our current configuration and allow us to concentrate on our core mission.”
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Last updated: August 9, 2006