After raising $9 million, a Rochester biotechnology firm is building a state-of-the-art headquarters to manufacture anti-cancer vaccines on the former IBM campus.
Vyriad announced this morning that it had raised the money needed to build a "Good Manufacturing Practice" facility to produce the company’s clinical-stage oncolytic virus therapies.
"It’s going to be beautiful. It has been a long time in the planning," said Vyriad CEO and Mayo Clinic researcher Dr. Stephen Russell. "This is a triumph."
The plan is to build the company’s headquarters, a manufacturing facility and various "wet" labs in 25,000-square-feet of space of Building 110 on the Rochester Technology Campus, the former IBM campus, in northwest Rochester.
Vyriad and its related firm, Imanis Life Sciences, leased the space last year, but has been raising capital since then to move the project forward.
Many venture capitalists interested in Vyriad’s technology said they would only fund it if the company moved somewhere like Boston or San Francisco, said Russell. The thought was that there is not enough talent in Rochester to support such an venture.
"Despite the Destination Medical Center idea, I don’t think the investment community has bought into it," he said. "The real value of this company is to remain in Rochester connected to the engine, Mayo Clinic, where the technology was developed … We had to stick to our guns."
The $9 million in convertible note financing included participation by Mayo Clinic, Rochester Area Economic Development Inc., the Southeast Minnesota Capital Fund LLC and a Korea-based venture firm. In addition, a total of $370,000 in funding for equipment is committed: $270,000 by the state of Minnesota, and $100,000 by the City of Rochester.
Benike Construction of Rochester is already starting work on the Vyriad site. The goal is have it up and running by the fourth quarter of this year. Once ready, the 20 or so existing Vyriad and Imanis employees will move into the site. The firm is already recruiting the specialized staff — about eight — needed to run the facility.
While it is years before Vyriad could have a product or therapy on the market, the Rochester facility will produce the specialized viruses used in the clinical trials needed before becoming approved for general use. Once a therapy is approved, Vyriad would need a much larger manufacturing site to make it for commercial use.
Vyriad is using viruses, such as measles and others, to attack cancer tumors. The two-stage process has the virus damage the tumor and then "wake up" a patient’s immune system to finish destroying the cancer.
Russell sees this project as the first piece in developing a biotech/ pharmaceutical presence in the Rochester area, similar to Minnesota’s medical device industry.