America is the land of opportunity, and Springfield is the city of opportunity for one German pharmaceutical company that has recently taken up residency at the Fairfax County Bio-Accelerator.
Berlin-based Jerini Peptide Technologies (JPT) has entered the BioAccelerator after winning a European contest in 2003 sponsored by the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority. Top prize was free office space and business development services at the BioAccelerator, which supports the growth of early-stage bioscience and biomedical companies.
"We were looking at two different scenarios. One would be working out of a hotel, and the other would be being based here," said Peter-Paul C. Henze, director of sales and marketing for JPT. "The difference is here, to have an office with all the office amenities, is a plus. And of course, now, we are part of a very vibrant bio-environment in this area. We’re not a flash-in-the-pan or fly-by-night. We’re here to stay, and we couldn’t hope for a better bridgehead."
JPT is a venture-backed pharmaceuticals company and a wholly-owned subsidiary of Jerini AG. JPT does nearly 50 percent of its global business in the United States, but until this time had no permanent office space here.
JPT is the second European company among the seven companies in the BioAccelerator, located on Loisdale Road in Springfield. Created with the goal of giving fledgling biotechnology companies a foothold in Fairfax County, the BioAccelerator, through the ANGLE Technology Group which manages the facility, offers up to 10 companies at a time a range of customized business start-up services. These services range from basic office tools like copy, fax, and servers, to assistance with grant-writing and preparing marketing presentations.
IN THE CASE of JPT, the FCEDA is thrilled that a company from the bio-tech hot-spot of Germany has found a home here.
"The beauty of this is we spend all our time trying to get in front of those companies overseas. [Now], we have our partners over there telling their own businesses about Fairfax County," said Gerald Gordon, president of the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority (FCEDA), which opened the BioAccelerator.
The FCEDA went looking for a European client and in 2002 began the contest in conjunction with BioM, a Munich-based bio-tech development company.
"We looked around the world to see where the great bio-technology markets were, and Munich pops right to the top of the list," said Gordon.
In order to win the contest, the eight competing companies had to prove two things: they had a technology marketable both at home and in the United States, and they had a business plan that demonstrated they were financially capable of achieving their goals.
"It’s about promoting our products and services," said Henze. "We simply had to look at the map, and we found that Fairfax County is four hours away from the research triangle in North Carolina and seven hours from Boston. It’s smack in the middle of the East Coast … There is no better place to go."
Currently, Henze is the only employee working out of Springfield, and the first year he will spend working to translate JPT's products to U.S. standards and making valuable new connections and partnerships. What JPT does is specialize in the production and marketing of groupings of synthetic peptides — strands of proteins found within the human body. Its products are already widely used internationally by pharmaceutical companies, but Henze said another by-product of setting up shop in the United States, especially in such close proximity to resources like the National Institutes for Health in Maryland, could mean new discovery for his company as well.
"There might be some other uses for our products, or there is a need we might not even know about," Henze said. "We’d like to broaden our scope and we do know that quite a number of scientists have a full grasp of our concept of what it is we offer."
THE LONG-TERM effect of having JPT at the BioAccelerator could mean much more for both the company and for the greater Springfield area.
"We’ve always been looking for an industry we could grow in the Springfield area," said Gordon. "We have a unique opportunity here."
What made Springfield desirable for the biotechnology field was its proximity to the information technology (IT) corridor in northern Fairfax County. The combined resources of these two fields could mean more good things for both industries locally.
"To date, we’ve seen a great focus on information technology," said Supervisor Dana Kauffman (D-Lee), who was instrumental in the birth of the BioAccelerator in 2002. "These types of jobs we’re seeing with the German company represent the marriage of information technology and medicine. That’s the significant next step."
The hope is that when companies finish their one-year "incubation" phase at the BioAccelerator, they will remain in Fairfax County, moving out into independent office space, which would create new jobs and boost the economy.
"What will be critical over time," said Kauffman, "is how the efforts of the incubator work to spark quality office development for Springfield, and potentially the rest of the county.
"If we’re successful, this could be a great source of future jobs and tax revenue," he said.