Biotech Company Relocating to St. Pete

Company utilized a USF patent in helping to develop its therapies to treat cancer and infectious diseases.


Special to USF News


ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (Oct. 20, 2011) – Officials with the city, state and University of South Florida Thursday announced that a clinical stage biotechnology company is moving its operations from New York to St. Petersburg’s Gateway Area – a significant new stage in its long-term partnership with USF.

IRX Therapeutics, Inc. is developing therapies to treat cancer and infectious diseases.  Its lead product, IRX-2, is an active immunotherapy that is designed to treat cancer by restoring the patient’s immune system and enabling an immune attack on the tumor.  To date, IRX has raised $90 million of capital to fund pre-clinical research, manufacturing and clinical development of IRX-2. 

IRX plans to begin the move of their research facilities to St. Petersburg before the end of the year, and initially employ 40 people to commence a Phase 3 trial.  Within five years of the relocation, they intend to employee more than 280 people with an anticipated average salary in excess of $90,000 (more than twice the present average wage in Pinellas County).  It is planned that the additional employees will staff commercial-scale manufacturing and expanded development capabilities in anticipation of a potential commercial product launch.


IRX has significant ties to the University of South Florida.  IRX licensed a broad patent portfolio from USF, where the early technology was developed.  Also, under a letter of intent signed by the parties, IRX and the Florida High Tech Corridor Council will jointly fund $2.5 million in research to be performed at the University of South Florida in the areas of therapeutic vaccine optimization and proof-of-concept clinical trials. 


The relocation package that was approved at the State and local levels includes $600,000 from the State of Florida Innovation fund, $275,000 from Pinellas County Economic Development, a $275,000 credit toward land owned by the City of St. Petersburg in the Dome Industrial Park (for future expansion), and $50,000 from the University of South Florida Research Foundation.  All cash incentives will be repaid by IRX to the governments and USF at such time as IRX meets identified revenue targets.


 “It is a major jobs win for Florida and a great day for St. Petersburg, USF and Pinellas County,” said Rick Baker, Vice President of Public Policy and Innovation Partnerships at USF, who led the local effort to bring IRX to Florida.  “It is exactly the type of industry we need to expand our job base into the health and technology areas.” 


Added John W. Hadden II, President & CEO of IRX Therapeutics:  “We are proud to become part of St. Petersburg – a growing technology center – and to expand our relationship with the University of South Florida System – one of the nation’s prominent research institutions.”


St. Petersburg and Pinellas County have targeted research, technology and health as growth economic areas, so the relocation is a big plus:


“We are very excited to welcome IRX Therapeutics to St. Petersburg.  St. Petersburg and Pinellas County have targeted research, technology and health as growth economic areas and St. Petersburg is uniquely situated to attract firms like IRX, with its access to high technology partners and medical products and services excellence, and our overall superb quality of life,” said St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster. 


Pinellas County Commission Chair Susan Latvala agreed:  “I am thrilled to welcome IRX Therapeutics to the Pinellas County business community.  Projects like this illustrate our region’s attractiveness to the life sciences industry and underline the high-wage job creation associated with business attraction efforts.” 


The Florida High Tech Corridor Council’s Randy Berridge added:  “Partnering with IRX Therapeutics through our FTCC Matching Grants Program to fund research by USF professors and graduate students beneficial to this company, exemplifies our best efforts to help attract, retain and grow high tech industry and workforce in our 23 county Corridor region.”


USF Health, USF Research, St. Petersburg and Pinellas County are no strangers to research and technology.  SRI International and Draper Labs have both located facilities to the city in recent years, each in partnership with USF, Florida, the City of St. Petersburg and Pinellas County. 

USF System President Judy Genshaft said: “This project represents the life-changing potential of a great partnership between a leading research university and industry on the cutting-edge of science.  The University of South Florida’s focus on applying our capabilities and expertise with companies committed to world-class healthcare will make a world of difference in saving lives, advancing research and creating a vibrant, sustainable economy for the future of the region.”


“A university’s technology transfer is at its best when it produces something that makes a positive difference for society.  We are thrilled with today’s announcement.” said Karen A. Holbrook, USF’s Senior Vice President for Research, Innovation & Global Affairs

Dr. Stephen Klasko, CEO of USF Health and Dean of the College of Medicine at the University of South Florida added: "This announcement is a great example of the impact that an academic medical center has on the economic development of a community.  We’re bringing ideas, inventions and businesses to the region and that means jobs . . . and ultimately improving the lives of the citizens of the region.  We’re especially proud that the development and ideas that led to this company came from the College of Medicine at USF Health.  John W. Hadden, M.D. taught generations of student researchers at USF about the critical role of the immune system, and the possibility that it could be harnessed to treat cancer."