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Old Posted Aug 9, 2005, 12:48 PM
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Join Date: May 2003
Location: Huntsville
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BioTech Boom

Huntsville, the leader in space and missile defense now strives
to do the same in biotech, new campus at Research Park.

Big plans for biotech Hudson-led institute promises 900 jobs for city
Tuesday, August 09, 2005
By BRIAN LAWSON
Times Business Writer brianl@htimes.com
Nonprofit is backed by $130 million inprivate, state funds

Huntsville will be the home of a major new biotechnology research institute, led by industry pioneer Jim Hudson and backed by $80 million in private contributions and a $50 million state investment.

At a luncheon today, Gov. Bob Riley, who has called for biotech development in Alabama since he first ran for governor, will announce the establishment of the nonprofit Hudson-Alpha Institute for Biotechnology.
"With a $50 million commitment from the state, we're gaining $80 million in private investments that together will help create about 900 direct new jobs," Riley said. "We are actively and aggressively positioning Alabama to become a worldwide leader in biotech research and one of the premier places in the nation for these high-paying jobs that can't be exported overseas."

Researchers in the biotech field often possess both a medical degree and a Ph.D. and want to work around the world with top researchers, the kind the institute hopes to attract.

Hudson, 63, established Huntsville's biotech industry with his company, Research Genetics, which he founded in 1987 and sold in 2000. He said the institute project - a resurrection of a long-held idea - began to move forward in May 2004 after significant amounts of cash were raised from private donors. The group approached Riley, seeking state support. Hudson said Riley was immediately receptive and made the deal possible.

"This is the most exciting thing I've been involved with in my lifetime," Hudson said. "This is going to be unique. It will be an economic development engine as much as a true research facility. We'll have eight scientific teams, housed in the same building with eight biotech companies."

Hudson said the private donors who generated the $80 million commitment have asked not to be identified. The donors are not investors seeking a return, he said.

While the institute and its future researchers will face plenty of competition for grant dollars, Hudson said the biotech field is exploding with the mapping of the human genome, and there are plenty of "niches available to become a dominant player."

The institute will create a campus-like environment on 120 acres in Cummings Research Park. It will include a 260,000-square-foot main building that will house biotech companies and facilities for eight teams of institute-hired scientists, Hudson said.

Construction is scheduled to begin this winter, and organizers hope to open the institute in fall 2007. The institute will start with 500 to 600 people working in its facility and expects an annual payroll of $37 million by the end of 2008.

At full capacity, the institute is expected to employ 900. The property sold to it by the City of Huntsville is large enough to accommodate new buildings for companies that outgrow their space in the institute. Hudson estimates the overall campus could employ 1,600 within 10 years with an annual payroll of $83 million.

U.S. Rep. Bud Cramer, D-Huntsville, who helped negotiate the agreement between the institute and state officials, said the project could be the beginning of redefining Alabama's economy.

"I think it's an extraordinary opportunity for our state to define a future for itself that hasn't been defined so far," Cramer said. "This brings together assets from around the state of Alabama. And it allows us to enter an elite number of centers around the county like this. That will allow us to attract companies and scientists and projects beyond anything we've seen in North Alabama."

Building a future

The University of Alabama in Huntsville biotechnology program Web site defines biotechnology as "the safe study and manipulation of biological molecules for development of products or techniques for medical and industrial application."

Supporters of the project said Huntsville could see the same kind of biotech industry form around the institute as has been the case in San Diego in connection with the Scripps Institute there and in Palo Alto, Calif., near Stanford University.
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