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A Site Selection Web Exclusive, December 2012
WEB Exclusive story

The Yard Keeps Growing

Iroko’s new headquarters is the culmination of fast growth at Philadelphia Navy Yard since the firm got its start there in 2007.
Photo by Mark Stehle/AP Images for Iroko Pharmaceuticals

Iroko’s new HQ is the latest bloom in Philly.


roko Pharmaceuticals was little more than a seed five years ago. But it planted itself in one of the most fertile growth mediums for life sciences: Greater Philadelphia. On Dec. 12, it achieved full bloom with a new headquarters, and sought to seed the future at the same time.

Developed to achieve LEED-Gold certification by, the new 56,412-sq.-ft. (5,240-sq.-m.), four-story global headquarters at Navy Yard Corporate Center in Philadelphia is the seventh sustainable building to be developed in the complex by the team of Liberty Property Trust/Synterra Partners. The new facility is designed to accommodate about 180 employees at maximum capacity. Iroko got its start in a small office suite at another Liberty property at Navy Yard, and had grown to 50 already by the time it broke ground for the HQ in September 2011.

“The success of Iroko Pharmaceuticals mirrors the growth and transformation of the historic Philadelphia Navy Yard itself,” said John Vavricka, president and CEO of Iroko Pharmaceuticals.

Liberty has invested $15.4 million in the development of the project. In total, Liberty/Synterra has developed more than 1,020,000 rentable sq. ft. (94,758 sq. m.) representing more than $240 million in private investment in The Navy Yard to date. Liberty initially conceived The Iroko Building as an inventory office building. It was designed for Liberty/Synterra by DIGSAU, a Philadelphia-based design firm and constructed by Penn Construction Company.

"We were drawn to the Navy Yard initially because of the many advantages of being in Philadelphia and the vision of what the site could be,” said Osagie Imasogie, senior managing partner, Phoenix IP Ventures, and chairman of Iroko, at the groundbreaking last year. “The city is a wonderful place for the life sciences because of its highly educated workforce and research infrastructure. Our management team hails from around the world, and we choose to be in Philadelphia.”

Imasogie and Vavricka both count international experience at GlaxoSmithKline on their resumes, while Vavricka also worked for Chiron and helped manage parts of that company’s merger with Novartis. GSK is moving into its own new building at Navy Yard, beginning this month.

Iroko has signed a long term lease at the new building, which has been designed to achieve LEED-CS Gold certification. Helping to keep energy costs down will be a BWAN (building wide area network) system designed by Liberty to track and manage energy use and efficiency in real time from a computer, phone or PDA.

The milestone is part of the Iroko’s long-term growth plan as it advances its late-stage pipeline of lower dose submicron non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) towards commercialization. It’s also extended a distribution and sales network across more than 40 countries.

“Iroko was built on an ambitious yet simple vision, which is to bring meaningful therapeutic improvements to patients and physicians by utilizing scientific innovation to optimize widely-used and trusted medications,” said Imasogie this month. “Our new headquarters is symbolic of the huge strides we have made as a company in five short years and demonstrates our commitment to building a strong future for our company and our local community.” 

But it’s about more than a building. On the same day, Dec. 12, Iroko announced it has funded the creation of a new science scholarship program at the University of Pennsylvania (Penn). The newly created Iroko Pharmaceuticals Young Scientist Scholarship: Planting Possibilities program is a $200,000 education initiative designed to encourage the study of the sciences among enrolled University of Pennsylvania students coming from local Philadelphia public high schools.

“Innovation as a means of addressing unmet medical need is what defines Iroko as a company, and thus it is important for us to foster a new generation of young scientists, both men and women, by investing in programs that will enable appreciation and advancement of the sciences,” said Vavricka. As part of receiving the award, students will be encouraged to pursue mentoring and community service opportunities at the high school they attended during the award year.

Since its founding, Iroko has supported education through donations to local schools, including St. Martin’s De Porres School in Philadelphia which serves students in grades K-8. As part of that commitment, Iroko is donating laptops to St. Martin’s De Porres for use in educational instruction.

“As a company that was born of a vision to challenge the norm, we have flourished in Philadelphia’s talent-rich life sciences community, building a robust pipeline of novel pain management candidates in five short years,” said Imasogie. “Our new partnership with Penn is part of our ongoing commitment to invest in local education, helping to support and build future community leaders.”

Navy Yard has seen steady and diverse industrial investment, and with the arrival of 1,350 GSK employees this coming spring will have reached 10,000 employees on site — approximately the number of people who were employed at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard before it closed in 1995.
Photo courtesy of Philadelphia Industrial Development Corp. (PIDC)

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