Biotech company relocates highlights state growth

A medical research company’s new expansion into the greater Branford area has city and state officials pointing to biotechnology as a key economic driver for city’s economic future.

Durata Therapeutic, Inc., a pharmaceutical company focused on the development of therapeutic solutions to treat infectious disease, received a $2.25 million award last year from the state government’s Bioscience Connecticut Initiative to renovate an 18,000-foot space in Branford. The renovation was completed this past month, and since then, the company has moved its research, clinical and regulatory operations into the new office. The company is currently entering the final steps for receiving approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for a major drug to treat acute bacterial skin infections. If successful, Durata could provide up to 80 full-time jobs to residents of Branford and surrounding towns.

State Senate Majority Leader Martin Looney said that Durata’s expansion “could be quite significant” in achieving the state’s goals for growing the bioscience sector of the economy.

“I think bioscience is critical because Connecticut is looking to have a niche in research and high-tech manufacturing, so I think bioscience … is something we could maximize our role in,” he said.

Allison Wey, vice president of Investor Relations and Public Affairs at Durata Therapeutics, said that Durata’s renovations and occupation of 322 E. Main St. brought life back into the building as well as into the Branford area surrounding it. She added that the company moved operations from New Jersey because Connecticut can provide the talent and the tax advantage that the company believes will maximize its success.

“We knew that we could get the talent here, and there is certainly even more in the area,” she said. “As we continue to grow, it’s a feeding ground.”

Looney said he hopes to see additional biotechnology and medical science companies form out of the research taking place at the Yale School of Medicine and the University of Connecticut. The universities’ researchers and facilities could play a key role in facilitating even more extensive medical research and development in conjunction with corporate entities.

The concentration on biosciences in the Elm City results largely from initiatives at Yale, which is one of the largest national recipients of institutional health funding, said Kelly Murphy, director of economic development in New Haven. The commercialization of discoveries made in University labs can lead to the development of new bioscience startups.

One such company, Alexion Pharmaceuticals, founded in New Haven by Yale Medical School researchers in 1992, is now a global biopharmaceutical corporation with a market capitalization of over $22 billion. The company will return its headquarters to New Haven in 2015. After completing the move from Cheshire, Alexion is expected to bring 300 jobs to the New Haven area.

Murphy said that medical researchers tend to cluster in specific cities, such as New Haven, because pharmaceutical companies have a high failure rate, and individuals benefit from the ability to flow between jobs. Companies based in and around New Haven also benefit from the ease of collaborating with other nearby bioscience operations.

“Our goal is to create an environment that people want to invest in and bring their business to,” Murphy said.

A 2013 report issued by the city’s Office of Economic Development stated that New Haven is home to the largest concentration of life science companies in Connecticut.

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