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Between the Coasts

A small biotech firm based in Iowa is getting noticed for its research on cancer and Ebola, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Charles Link started NewLink Genetics in 1999 by spinning out immunotherapy technology developed at Iowa Methodist Medical Center in Des Moines and has raised funds for it from Stine Seed Farm's Harry Stine. NewLink Genetics' focus on cancer immunotherapy has garnered interest from Roche's Genentech, which has led to a $150 million deal, the Journal notes.

The company's Ebola vaccine research started as a side project, but got thrust into the limelight with the outbreak in Africa. Merck licensed its experimental vaccine, which is now undergoing clinical trial testing in West Africa, for $30 million, the WSJ notes.

But, the Journal wonders whether NewLink will still be able to attract talent to Iowa The company has, it adds, opened sites in Austin for sales people and outside Boston for its Ebola work.

"Building an early-stage biotech company is a really hard thing," says Peter Barrett from Cambridge-based Atlas Ventures. "Trying to get very specialized people in a remote area may be very difficult."