Biotech firm will build plant in Albemarle

Gov. Mark R. Warner announced Monday that Princeton BioMeditech Corporation (PBM) will invest $7 million to build a manufacturing facility in Albemarle County. The new plant will assist ContraVac, Inc., a biotechnology company founded at the University, in creating products to test male fertility.

The facility will generate 115 new jobs and provide research and development for current and future PBM initiatives. Virginia competed against New Jersey and Pennsylvania for the partnership, according to a University press release.

In a press release, Warner said he was pleased PBM chose his state for the new facility.

"The technological atmosphere of the University of Virginia Research Park, the opportunity to collaborate with the University of Virginia researchers to develop new products, and the natural beauty and lifestyle of Albemarle County were all key factors in the company's decision," Warner said. "I welcome [PBM President] Dr. [Jemo] Kang and Princeton BioMeditech Corporation to Virginia."

The industry giant sells its products in over 48 countries and has created more than 70 different diagnostic tests for various medical, veterinary and environmental applications.

"We are excited about starting up new operations in Virginia," PBM Director Walter Kang said. "There were a few different things that we liked about the area. The University was a big factor and its proximity to research was beneficial. The area in general made a strong impression in terms of quality of life."

In late 2004, ContraVac, Inc., a privately-owned corporation with copyrights owned by the University Patents Foundation, partnered with PBM through research on male fertility. Dr. John Herr, University professor of cell biology and founder of ContraVac, developed technology that will serve as the basis for PBM products made at the new facility.

"The opportunity to see basic research begin to enter the clinical testing phase and have a marketable product is one of our goals," Herr said. "And to have fruits of our labor reach the marketplace is quite a thrill. It's also gratifying to see the creation of a place that will create more jobs in the community."

The future facility will manufacture three products in the field of male fertility.Herr said he recognizes the value of the Princeton-based company building a plant in Albemarle County.

"PBM is good for the University," he said. "The presence of this corporation in Charlottesville will allow for more efforts in the areas of cardiac treatment, cancer markers, and infectious diseases."

Leonard Sandridge, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer at the University, said he also believes PBM's decision will bring about positive change.

"[The collaboration] is a perfect example of how innovation that takes place in a University of Virginia laboratory can be moved to the market place and manufactured in our own community at the U.Va. Research Park," Sandridge said.  "This is good for science, good for the University, good for BioMeditech Corporation and good for the local economy.  It attracts highly skilled jobs to provide the kind of economic development that every community seeks." 

According to a University press release, the Virginia Economic Development Partnership worked with Albemarle County, the University, the University Foundation and the Thomas Jefferson Partnership to acquire the project.Warner then agreed to a $100,000 grant from the Governor's Opportunity Fund to aid the new facility.The Virginia Department of Business Assistance will provide training through its Workforce Services Program.

Site development already began at a North Fork industrial park off of Rt. 29.PBM officials said they hope to have the facility running in the next couple of years.

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