Charleston West Virginia Economic Development

Discussions on Economic and Community Development in West Virginia and the Charleston MSA as well as issues of the Charleston Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Progenesis to open labs in South Charleston
The Herald-Dispatch

SOUTH CHARLESTON -- A company formed from research conducted at Marshall University is expected to announce this morning it will open laboratories in Charleston.

Progenesis Technologies, founded by Marshall professors Hongwei Yu and Richard Niles, will make a presentation today to the board of directors of the Chemical Alliance Zone (CAZ) on its product and a plan for a business model, said CAZ Executive Director Kevin DiGregorio.

"They're moving into an incubator (start-up location), and we're extremely excited about having them," DiGregorio said. "It's a great technology with a great business plan."

The CAZ is dedicated to maintaining, supporting and expanding the chemical industry across the state. While not technically a chemical venture, DiGregorio said Progenesis is "close."

The company has patented the altering of genomes in bacteria to create a substance known as alginate, which is used in everything from cosmetics and pharmaceuticals to brewing. Under normal circumstances, alginate can only be obtained through harvesting large amounts of brown seaweed. Biomanufactured alginate saves time and money, and is environment-friendly.

Marshall President Stephen Kopp said the company is a success story of biotechnical research, a growing field in West Virginia, which saw a business volume of $7.2 billion in 2006, while employing nearly 22,000, according to a study released Wednesday.

"This is an example of research leading to patents and spinning off into a new business venture, with new employment opportunities," he said.

Kopp has long stated he wants to found an institute at Marshall that would be dedicated solely to scientific research, where breakthroughs would lead to patents and more jobs for the state.
Progenesis will be using the South Charleston labs to test its product and produce samples for potential customers.

"They have to test the production capacity before they move ahead," Kopp said. "They have to demonstrate they can mass-produce it and meet the demand for it."

Kopp said he was thrilled that Progenesis evolved from work conducted at Marshall.

"Dr. Yu is a pioneer," he said. "We're exceptionally proud of the work Progenesis has been doing."


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