Firm looks to grow Valley presence through new plant

November 13, 2007

By hammersmith

[ Source: Angela Gonzales, The Business Journal of Phoenix] – Phoenix’s bioscience hub could be key to expansion plans for a Los Angeles pharmaceutical company that uses nanotechnology to kill cancer cells.

Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong, CEO and executive chairman of Abraxis BioScience Inc., said he has been looking around the world for the types of collaborations and vision he sees in Phoenix.

Soon-Shiong was in town this week, meeting with Gov. Janet Napolitano, Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon, and Valley bioscientists and economic development executives.

“You have an opportunity to change the country,” he told the group.

He said he looks forward to forging partnerships with Arizona scientists, including those at the Translational Genomics Research Institute and The Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University.

“I hope to be part of your vision,” Soon-Shiong said.

In July, Abraxis bought a 200,000-square-foot specialized manufacturing facility in Phoenix from Watson Pharmaceuticals Inc. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed in 8-K or 10-Q statements filed with U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Soon-Shiong said buying the Phoenix facility was the first step toward creating a presence in the Valley. The plant, where 85 Abraxis employees now work, will allow his company to expand its manufacturing capabilities to provide the necessary infrastructure for worldwide growth of the company, he said.

He told the Phoenix Business Journal he plans to take the plant to the next generation of nanoparticle capabilities.

This is good news for Arizona’s growing bioscience hub, said Barry Broome, president and CEO of the Greater Phoenix Economic Council. He said Arizona has been looking for a pharmaceutical partner with access to capital that can help propel the growth of the bioscience industry.

“Abraxis could be a partnership that will do that,” Broome said.

GPEC, which worked to bring Abraxis to Phoenix, hosted a private reception for Soon-Shiong.

Bob Eaton, the new president and CEO of the Arizona Bioindustry Association, said he is excited about the potential for Abraxis to become a significant player in the state’s bioscience industry.

“It’s clear that more people are now recognizing the quality and depth of bio-related expertise coming together in Arizona,” Eaton said.

Eaton came here from Maryland, where he was head of the MdBio trade group for 10 years. He started his position with the Arizona association in mid-October.

X. James Xia, president of GenoSensor Corp. in Tempe, said he looks forward to finding ways he can collaborate with Abraxis.

“I see opportunities for us to work together,” he said.

GenoSensor focuses on providing genomic technologies that labs use worldwide for gene profiling and screening.

Abraxis received approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2005 for a drug called Abraxane to treat metastatic breast cancer. The company’s technology allows chemotherapy drugs to be injected directly into tumors, past blood vessel walls into the tumor cell membrane, Soon-Shiong said. It uses albumin, a human protein, to deliver the chemotherapy.

“It feeds the tumor with nanoparticles and uses the tumor’s biology against itself,” he said.

While the company markets Abraxane for metastatic breast cancer, it is planning clinical trials this year to test the treatment for other forms of cancer. Abraxis forged a co-promotion agreement with pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca to market Abraxane.