Virginia CRO Brings Animal Research Facility to Greensboro
By Barry Teater, NCBiotech Writer
|-- Photos courtesy of SoBran|
SoBran BioScience, a 500-employee contract research organization based in Fairfax, Va., will open a new animal research facility this summer in Greensboro.
The company says its first North Carolina site will bring new jobs, potential research collaborations with academic scientists and new training opportunities for students at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University.
SoBran will perform pre-clinical research studies in small and large animals for government agencies, universities and biotechnology companies starting in June at its new labs and offices on the North Campus of the Gateway University Research Park. The park, a joint venture created by NCA&T and the University of North Carolina Greensboro, provides business and academia access to instruments, laboratories and shared resources for discovery and research.
SoBran will start with six employees, all to be hired from within the region, and will add more as operations expand, said company spokesperson Soma Otis Martin. The initial jobs will include veterinarian, lab manager, vet technician and husbandry technician roles.
The staff will work in 8,500 square feet of labs custom designed for preclinical research following good laboratory practice standards and accredited by the Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care, commonly known as AAALAC International, a nonprofit organization that promotes the humane treatment of animals in science through voluntary accreditation and assessment programs.
SoBran has a small-animal research facility at John Hopkins University’s Science and Technology Park in Baltimore. The Greensboro expansion will allow the company to add large animals to its study capabilities, including the long-term housing of those animals on pastureland at NCA&T’s 492-acre research farm.
Ready for collaborations
SoBran said the Gateway University Research Park’s proximity to NCA&T and UNCG would enable collaborative research opportunities with the faculty and staff at both universities.
“The SoBran team is excited to have this opportunity to further our work with some of the brightest minds in science,” said Gregory Kelly, Ph.D., senior vice president of biomedical services at SoBran.
The company cited NCA&T’s role in the National Science Foundation’s Engineering Research Center for Revolutionizing Metallic Biomaterials as one opportunity, and research on major nanoscience innovations, such as biodegradable orthopedic implants, as another.
“SoBran has the pre-clinical expertise and responsiveness that our scientists need to advance their research,” said Barry Burks, Ph.D., vice chancellor for research and economic development at NCA&T. “Together our facilities and expertise can be used for scientific innovation and to expose NCA&T students to career opportunities.”
SoBran said its work would expose students to animal-based research as they prepare for veterinary and other advanced programs.
Bio-boost for the Triad
In choosing Greensboro, SoBran will join 74 biotechnology companies and 243 support companies that employ nearly 10,000 people in the Piedmont Triad region.
Amos Leon Otis
SoBran founder, president and CEO
“This further indicates the growing cluster of biotech companies, the strength of our academic research institutions and the value of our research park communities,” said Nancy Johnston, executive director of the North Carolina Biotechnology Center’s Piedmont Triad Office. “Having SoBran’s experience in preclinical research and drug discovery will help strengthen regional innovation in areas such as nanobiotechnology, diagnostics, regenerative medicine, biopharmaceuticals and medical devices.”
SoBran will not receive any government incentives for the expansion. However, Martin, the company spokesperson, credited the Biotechnology Center and NCA&T for their efforts to integrate SoBran into the Triad’s bioscience community. “Their support has been critical,” she said.
SoBran’s expansion in Greensboro builds on North Carolina’s reputation for having the world’s greatest concentration of contract research organizations (CROs). About 130 CROs employ more than 21,000 people within the state and tens of thousands of others around the world.
CROs support pharmaceutical and medical device companies and research institutions with a wide range of services, including biopharmaceutical development, biologic assay development, commercialization, preclinical and clinical research and clinical trials management.
A recent study of North Carolina’s life science landscape by the Battelle Technology Partnership Practice says this specialized field of outsourced drug development is one of six emerging life science technology sectors likely to flourish into the future.
SoBran’s deep contracting roots
SoBran BioScience is a division of SoBran Inc., a privately owned contracting firm based in Dayton, Ohio, and with executive offices in Fairfax, Va. Other divisions of the company provide engineering, logistics and security services to clients in government, academia and industry.
SoBran Inc., founded in 1987 by Amos Otis, an officer in the U.S. Air Force, has more than 800 employees at 15 locations throughout the United States and annual revenues of about $65 million. Its clients include the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Energy and all four branches of the military.
The company was listed among the Inc. 5000 Fastest Growing Companies from 2007 through 2009, and has been on Black Enterprise Magazine's list of top 100 minority-owned businesses every year since 2006. It received the Department of Homeland Security’s Small Business Achievement Award for fiscal year 2006.
SoBran BioScience, created in 2002, has nearly two decades of experience supporting preclinical research and drug discovery for clients in the life sciences. The division manages and operates complex laboratory animal care programs in support of in vivo research studies; provides research and technical support services for preclinical toxicology and drug discovery programs; and offers consulting services including research protocol development, laboratory design and regulatory support.