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Start-Up Pharma IRX Therapeutics Increasing Staff, Space at Suburban NY BioScience Park

A startup drug developer in suburban New York is expanding its physical space and its workforce over the next year and a half as it prepares to bring its lead product to market and develop other treatments, according to a company official.
IRX Therapeutics, based in Farmingdale on New York’s Long Island, will relocate later this summer within the Broad Hollow BioScience Park, its home for the past eight years, from its current 1,600-square-foot space into 6,420 square feet in the just-completed $20 million second building.

“We believe in Long Island. There are a lot of qualified people here.”

The expansion will allow IRX to accommodate additional staffers it expects to hire over the next 18 months. Harvey Brandwein, the company’s chief technology officer and senior vice president of research, told BioRegion News earlier this month that the company’s current 33-person workforce will grow into 2009.
“I could see us hiring another four to six people” in 2008 and “during the course of ’09 we’ll probably add another 14 people, and then probably twice that amount in 2010, because then we’re going to be getting into hiring the sales force,” Brandwein said in an interview. “We’ll be adding more regulatory, more clinical research people, and manufacturing/process-development people.”
Broad Hollow is the home base for 25 of IRX’s employees; the rest occupy administrative office space in New York City, which the company will retain after its Farmingdale expansion, said Brandwein.
Brandwein discussed the plan last week after making a presentation at the 2008 Life Sciences Summit by the Long Island Life Sciences Summit in Huntington, NY.
During his talk, Brandwein said IRX is gearing up to commercialize its lead cancer drug IRX-2, or citoplurikin. The candidate, which has taken the company eight years to develop, comprises natural signaling proteins or cytokines designed to enable the body’s immune system to destroy tumors.
IRX-2 is set later this year to start a Phase III clinical trial in patients with head-and-neck cancer. “This will be a large, 500-patient trial. We’ll be using 100-plus sites. We are at the leading cancer centers in this country, and we will be having a significant number of high-quality, high-volume international sites,” Brandwein told the conference. “Probably in about three years or so after we start the trial, we would hope to be in a position to file, perhaps for accelerated approval, if the disease pre-survival endpoint is met.
“This is a platform technology applicable to numerous cancers,” Brandwein added.
IRX projects it can capitalize on a market it has said exceeds $1 billion in the US and that accounts for 10 percent of the 500,000 new cases diagnosed worldwide each year, according to Brandwein. “Currently surgery, and in some cases devastating, mutilating surgery, is the front-line standard of care for this disease.”
The company is also working to develop two cancer vaccine candidates, including one that will start a clinical trial in the second half of this year; as well as two antiviral candidates, one of which combines citoplurikin with an immunostimulatory peptide.
Founded in 1994, IRX is focused on the discovery and commercialization of treatments for advanced cancer and viral diseases. Brandwein, who leads the company’s research and manufacturing operations, joined IRX from filtration and separation technology giant Pall Corp., where he worked for 12 years, leaving as corporate vice president.
On June 3, privately held IRX announced it had raised $25 million through a Series A preferred stock offering. That offering brings to more than $65 million the amount of private financing the company has raised.
IRX is the second tenant that has agreed to occupy space at Broad Hollow’s 43,000-square-foot second building. The first tenant signed for the second building is OSI Pharmaceuticals, a drug discoverer focused on cancer, diabetes, and obesity that will move later this year into 11,500 square feet.
OSI and IRX will soon be joined by additional tenants, Greg Blyskal, executive director of the Broad Hollow biopark, told BRN. “There are a couple of other companies we’ve been talking with intending to move into the new building,” Blyskal said, declining to name the companies.
Broad Hollow is designed to accommodate startup and early-stage life-science companies. The park markets its space in modules of 535 square feet, with a base asking rent of $23 per square foot, rising to $33 per square foot for utilities and other expenses.
“You’ve got a bench on one wall, a bench on the other wall, and an island of space in between. That’s a decent amount of space where you could run your experiments in,” Blyskal said. “And typically, a startup company is going to take anywhere from as few as one to maybe two and three modules.”
OSI had been the anchor tenant of the 63,500-square-foot first building, occupying about 53,000 square feet. OSI will grow into the sole tenant when it moves into IRX’s space. OSI, which bases 85 employees at Broad Hollow, has publicly credited the biocampus with enabling it to remain and grow on Long Island.
Broad Hollow is a $43 million, state-funded nonprofit life-science campus that occupies 20 acres of the 380-acre campus of State University of New York’s Farmingdale State College on Route 110.
Blyskal said Broad Hollow still has plans to build a third building, but has not set a timetable for doing so.
“We plan to have building two filled up, and then look at a third building. It will probably be bigger and be an accelerator facility, for the next level company past startup and going from late early stages to the next level,” Blyskal said.
Brandwein recalled IRX being Broad Hollow’s first tenant in the first building when it opened in 2000. The move addressed a key challenge for IRX: How to emerge from a virtual company.
“I knew that this was in the offing and we needed laboratories. I know the people at Cold Spring Harbor [Laboratory, also located on Long Island] and I know the quality of the park, so early on, I said we needed to have space on Long Island. I’m from here. John Hadden was from Cold Spring Harbor,” Brandwein said. “We believe in Long Island. There are a lot of qualified people here.”

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