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A Site Selection Web Exclusive, November 2010
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Gentlemen, Start Your Economic Engines

Biologics-Module-110110-007
Organized in late 2009, Biologics obtains used shipping containers from points by the Ohio River and uses them for pre-fabricated lab-space modules.

An Indiana county’s motor sports industry helps put local life science companies’ expansion plans in the fast lane

by MARK AREND
H

endricks County, Ind., just west of Indianapolis, is growing two of its signature industry sectors – motor sports and life sciences – by cross-pollinating their technical and human resource assets. Companies in both industries employ precision engineers, for example, so a good base of companies in one will benefit expanding companies in the other.

"In the process of learning about the motor sports industry, it became apparent how the skill sets there parallel those of the life sciences industry," says Cinda Kelley, executive director of the Hendricks Co. Economic Development Partnership. Kelley came to the area from Lafayette, Ind., up I-65, where manufacturing is the predominant sector. "Whereas the life sciences side uses scientists, the motor sports side uses engineers," she illustrates. "Life science is about patents and testing, and making medicines, which can take years. In motor sports, it's about making components, and the process can happen at the speed of racing. There is a synergy between the skill sets required in the medical device industry, particularly, and with suppliers to motor sports organizations."

The Eaglepoint Business Park in Brownsburg is a hub of motor sports suppliers, but much of the work done there pertains to medical device companies, says Kelley. So life science companies such as Vortek Surgical and Biologics LLC are finding a very suitable location there, she relates. And others will likely follow. "There is a lot of momentum now in discussions with the whole bio-pharma-medical device industry. It's about taking your existing talent and really digging down into it and seeing what other markets it serves. In this economy, communities really need to do that."

Racing to Expand

Vortek Surgical and Biologics are small companies today, but they both have significant expansion plans in their respective niches. Vortek Surgical, established in 2006, makes devices for endoscopic and other procedures, and Biologics builds mobile, modular laboratory space. Vortek's products are manufactured by contractors elsewhere in the U.S. The company employs six people today, but will grow to about 60 in the next three to five years, says Tom Szymczak, president.

"The company founders are from central Indiana, and we chose to stay and grow in Indiana because of the reasonable cost of living, the proximity of some of the contract manufacturing processes we were working with and for logistics reasons," he says. "Our goal is to bring more of the contract manufacturing and final packaging in-house over time. We plan to bring one process in-house in the first quarter of 2011."

Vortek occupies 10,000 sq. ft. (930 sq. m.) in Eaglepoint amidst the racing teams and their suppliers. "Our plan is to expand and to eventually build or acquire a building that suits our ongoing growth and space needs. That can be defined in a number of ways, depending on what types of products we bring to market over the next three to five years.

"We've made a long-term commitment to Brownsburg," says Szymczak. "We've branded our products in our marketplace, but as we brand our company, we want to do so with a community that offers long-term growth opportunities, but also the people and the technology needs we would have in order to grow. Brownsburg is a great balance for that."

What advantage does the local motor sports industry afford?

"The simple answer is that Brownsburg has done a great job of establishing a home for a vast amount of resources within motor sports. Similarly, they are working diligently in the city and in Hendricks County on attracting biotech and healthcare companies like ours," Szymczak relates.

Cinda Kelley's team, for example, is beginning to work with local higher-education centers to develop curricula of direct use to both motor sports and life sciences, particularly where the skill sets overlap.

"The need for tight design tolerances is probably no more prevalent in auto racing, when you're going 300 miles per hour, than it is when you're doing surgery, where you want the doctors to have the best-engineered tools available," says Szymczak. "Our company focuses on safety and efficiency and trying to establish new benchmarks, and there is an incredible amount of synergy available to us here in terms of the community and in working with the motor sports industry in engineering new products."

Instant Lab Space for Clinical Trials

Biologics benefits from its Brownsburg location in a different way. Synergy with the motor sports players in this case has to do with their knowing their way around vehicle-transport containers, which are not unlike the lab-space modules Biologics makes for companies engaged in clinical trials. Target users include those involved in microbial and mammalian cell production for drug development, radio-nuclear pharmacy R&D and medical device manufacturing.

"We couple a GMP [good manufacturing practices]-compliant, FDA-certified facility together with the resources to help the biotech company achieve a validated biotech process, a corporate quality plan and resources to support the process and the regulatory strategy and support to submit the data to the FDA for acceptance and approval," says Todd Hockemeyer, vice president, business development. "Our solution is much faster than the traditional method and cheaper." Companies still have to spend money on their clinical trials, and there's still the likelihood the science could fail, he explains. Biologics facilitates the clinical trial process, bringing the tests to the FDA decision point sooner and for less money and at lower risk than traditional contract manufacturing options allow. "And if they do fail, we want to take the structures back, because it makes financial sense to reclaim and reuse the intermodal shipping containers that form the structural framework for the facility." On the front end, clean-room space is up and operational within a few days of the module being delivered to the client.

Organized in late 2009, Biologics obtains used shipping containers from points by the Ohio River and uses them for pre-fabricated lab-space modules. But as the business grows, says Hockemeyer, it will do more of that work and the clean-room final assembly, commissioning and validation work in Brownsburg.

"There are a lot of fabrication and engineering resources that are used to doing that within confined spaces, like automobiles and trailers for the auto racing industry," he explains. "They know how to cut and fabricate and design sophisticated systems for confined spaces, and we're doing a lot of the same kinds of things.

"Racing industry engineers are good at creating – and bending the curve of – new technology," Hockemeyer adds. During the racing off-seasons in particular, Biologics hopes to work with those engineers, many of whom work for racing teams on a contract basis. "As the business ramps up, we'll need a lot more square footage to support the commissioning and outfitting of these clean rooms." The company's 7,500 sq. ft. (697 sq. m.) of space will likely need to increase ten-fold, he relates.


Story in Pictures

Tom Szymczak, president, Vortek Surgical, Brownsburg, Ind.
Photo courtesy of Vortek Surgical

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