Local and state officials gathered Friday in Alachua to commemorate a $6 million expansion at Progress Park.
Representatives of Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc., a global science company involved with research and biotechnology product development, presented the company’s expanded gene therapy and viral vector services site. The day included tours of the 95,000-square-foot facility.
Chris Murphy, vice president and general manager of Thermo Fisher Viral Vector Services, said gene therapy provides genetic information to patients who lack it.
“I’ve been in this industry for over 20 years in gene therapy, and over the last three years, it’s completely transformed,” he said. “This site and this group and these folks here couldn’t be better positioned to be part of that revolution.”
Larry Pitcher, general manager and head of the Alachua site, said the company at its three-building location currently employs about 250 people who work with viral vectors “to treat and potentially cure rare, complex diseases.”
Key players in the more than decade-long development, who also spoke at the unveiling, included Greater Gainesville Chamber of Commerce Board Chair Bryan Harrington, the University of Florida’s Assistance Vice President of Technology Commercialization Jim O’Connell, state Sen. Keith Perry, and Alachua Mayor Gib Coerper.
O’Connell noted that the research started 16 years ago at the University of Florida when Richard Snyder founded Florida Biologix, which changed to Brammer Bio through a merger with Brammer Biopharmaceuticals in 2016. Brammer Bio then merged with Thermo Fisher Scientific in May.
O’Connell said a grant from state representatives originally kickstarted the initiative.
“I think it’s critical to recognize these things don’t happen overnight,” he said.
Murphy said he first came to Progress Park 18 years ago. He highlighted the influence of the company merger and the scale of the industry.
“(It’s) been just a remarkable synergy and nothing but positiveness, and, frankly, the investment continues,” he said. “$270 million will be invested by pharma-services groups across the world.”
Pitcher mentioned the continued growth of the Alachua site over the last two to three years and the increase of about 150 jobs.
“It’s really about the patient communities that we serve,” Pitcher said, “and getting these therapies to them as soon as possible.”
The presentation concluded with Greater Gainesville President and CEO Eric Gobet gifting Thermo Fisher representatives with a “key to the region” from the Greater Gainesville Chamber.