Identigen Ltd., a growing bioscience company based in Ireland, found its North American home in the heartland.
Western Lawrence, to be specific.
Identigen established its North American headquarters at 4824 Quail Crest Place, setting up high-tech equipment, turning to Kansas University for technological assistance and counting on the area for educated employees in what stands to be only the beginning for the company and its DNA-tacking technology.
"Within five years, there will be 200 to 300 employees in the company, most of them in Kansas," said Don Marvin, Identigen's president and chief executive officer for North American operations, after the company landed a testing contract with Tesco, considered a European version of Wal-Mart. "Will Lawrence be our only facility in the future? Probably not. But will Lawrence probably be one of our largest, if not the largest, operation? I think that's probably true."
Identigen, which brought its "traceback" technology for meat products to town in July, is indicative of high-tech and health-related concerns establishing or bolstering operations in western Lawrence. Others simply are building on the momentum.
Among progress taking place in the area:
¢ CritiTech's new crystallization center near Bob Billings Parkway and Wakarusa Drive has been qualified to handle good manufacturing practices production of active pharmaceutical ingredients. The designation clears the way for the company to make its own batches of Nanotax, CritiTech's drug formulation designed to fight ovarian cancer. The batches will be used for human trials to be conducted at Kansas University Medical Center.
¢ Deciphera Pharmaceuticals, also located southwest of Bob Billings Parkway and Wakarusa Drive, completed a round of venture capital financing as it continues development of molecular "blockers" to proteins that cause diseases such as cancer.
¢ Advanced Chiropractic started work on a new office building at 4925 Research Parkway.
¢ Lawrence-Douglas County Fire & Medical moved personnel and equipment into its new station No. 4, near the Clinton Water Treatment Plant on Wakarusa Drive. The move vacated a station at 2819 Stonebarn Terrace.
¢ Great American Insurance, the third-largest crop insurer in the U.S., consolidated its Lenexa and Topeka offices into a single location in Lawrence - 4910 Wakarusa Drive, on the second floor of the Wakarusa Corporate Centre. The new regional office opened earlier this year with plans for up to 60 employees handling insurance work for up to 50,000 policies covering farmers in Kansas, Arkansas, Colorado, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas, Louisiana, Wyoming and New Mexico.
¢ New eateries opened to serve the area and beyond: Brad Ziegler and Tim Stultz opened Zig & Mac's in the former Tanner's location at 1540 Wakarusa Drive; Matt Llewellyn, as managing partner, led a new ownership group in establishing 23rd Street Brewery in the former home of 75th Street Brewery, 3512 Clinton Parkway; and Rachel Wydeven Oliverius and Lori Johns opened Blue Plate Dinners, a meal-assembly concept at 4931 W. Sixth St. Another such operation - this one a franchise of the regional company Social Suppers - was scheduled to open this spring at 3514 Clinton Parkway.
Identigen closed out last year with a dozen people on staff in Lawrence, and entered 2007 with plans to have 30 on board by the end of the year.
With the Tesco signed and more work lining up for the future, Marvin said, there could be plenty of work originating on Quail Crest Place and perhaps expanding elsewhere.
"We're starting to gain traction in the marketplace, and once this train starts leaving the station, then everyone wants to get on that train," Marvin said.