BioAgilytix Expanding Global Durham HQ, Adding 878 Jobs
BioAgilytix, one of North Carolina’s fastest-growing home-grown life sciences companies, is adding 878 new employees with a $61.5 million investment in its global Durham headquarters.
The high-flying company, which provides contract bioanalytical testing for other companies’ large-molecule drug candidates, announced the expansion today as the latest in North Carolina’s head-turning life sciences growth trajectory. (See full press release.)
North Carolina Secretary of Commerce Tony Copeland made the announcement Thursday at NCBiotech, referencing his many trips to Cambridge, Mass. in the last three years.
"They talked about we are the Cambridge of the South. I think with this announcement, Cambridge can clearly be the Durham and RTP of the North."
Jim Datin, CEO of BioAgilytix, responded in kind.
"I think the world, to Secretary Copeland's comment, is really just finding out about BioAgilytix, Durham and North Carolina. I call it the best kept secret in the South."
Datin shared that his company is working on more than 800 projects involving cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer's disease and more. Their portfolio also includes a dozen-plus COVID-19-related projects.
Job Growth at a Critical Time
The demand has put BioAgilytix on a hiring spree this year - 40 jobs in the first quarter of this year, then 66 and 67 in quarters two and three. Datin acknowledged that the incentivized job number might be conservative.
This is good news to Durham County Board of Commissioners Chairwoman Wendy Jacobs. Unemployment in Durham County is 14 percent right now, and among tourism, hospitality, and entertainment workers, it is a staggering 36 percent.
"It is an urgent situation that we have, but how fortunate that we have this opportunity for our residents," Jacobs said.
Her goal is to make sure that everyone can see themselves working in a homegrown company like BioAgilytix. Datin noted that the BioAgilytix ecosystem has a range of jobs, and Jacobs noted that many can be had with an associate's degree, available through Durham Technical Community College.
JB Buxton, president of Durham Tech, picked up the challenge, noting that these life sciences jobs are good jobs.
"These are jobs that people can move into and have real upward mobility in a time of real uncertainty in our country," Buxton said. Durham Tech will partner with BioAgilytix to make sure that Durham residents meet the requirements for these jobs, he said.
Privately held BioAgilytix was founded by biochemist and serial entrepreneur Afshin Safavi Ph.D., in 2008. It grew quickly, from an initial three employees to some 425 today. It was acquired by two private equity firms in 2018: Cobepa, a 3 billion Euro fund based in Belgium; and GHO Capital, a London-based, leading global specialist healthcare investment advisory with approximately 3 billion Euro under management.
In August, BioAgilytix partnered with Boston’s Brio Systems to launch a platform providing U.S. employers comprehensive COVID-19 testing programs.
Large-molecule drugs, often referred to as therapeutic proteins or biopharmaceuticals, include amino acid-based molecules ranging in size from small peptides to large proteins such as monoclonal antibodies. Large-molecule drugs typically contain from 5,000 to 50,000 atoms per molecule, and typically require intravenous infusion.
Small-molecule drugs, in contrast, are “traditional” chemical compounds created in labs, usually with 20 to 100 atoms. They’re usually well suited to oral administration.
A Big Win for North Carolina and the World
Timothy Downs, vice president of economic development for the Durham Chamber of Commerce, noted that Durham and North Carolina are able to compete for these high-value jobs based on talent. Bill Bullock, senior vice president of economic development and statewide operations for NCBiotech, said delivering talent is critical for our quality of life in North Carolina and around the world.
"Right now the world needs life science centers of excellence like North Carolina and the Triangle that are able to accelerate the transformation of innovative ideas to real products and services."