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California Biotech Plans to Fund Dunkirk Drug Facility

Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong, a billionaire biotech entrepreneur who has been dubbed “Los Angeles’ richest man,” went to Western New York on a Saturday last month and spent five hours inside a state-funded $200 million medicine manufacturing factory in Dunkirk. ImmunityBio Inc., based in California, stated on Wednesday that it has agreed to take over the lease on the 409,000-square-foot Dunkirk building from Athenex.

The state had built the facility for a Buffalo biopharmaceutical business, but it had run into a series of regulatory roadblocks that had delayed the plant’s opening and harmed the company’s finances. Soon-Shiong told The Buffalo News that the Dunkirk facility will become ImmunityBio’s single-largest manufacturing plant once the deal closes this quarter, and that the company’s Covid-19 vaccine medicinal material might be produced by the end of 2022.

ImmunityBio will also provide contract manufacturing capacity to Athenex at its Dunkirk location, according to a preliminary agreement. For the state, local leaders, and taxpayers, this would be wonderful news. It’s been nearly six years since then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that the state would build the plant for Athenex, hoping that it would give the Buffalo company the boost it needed to become a biopharmaceutical powerhouse that would help Western New York’s reputation in drug development and manufacturing.

Officials predicted that the Dunkirk facility will be completed by the end of 2018, at the time. While the structure is now complete, Athenex has experienced problems in obtaining state licences, delaying the start of manufacturing in. ImmunityBio will assume the investment and recruiting responsibilities of Athenex’s agreements with the state once the purchase is completed. The contract, which began on Oct. 1, stipulates a $2 yearly lease payment for the first ten years, with the option to renew for another ten years.

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