New Orleans biotech companies announce expansions

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NEW ORLEANS - Mayor LaToya Cantrell announced expansions by three biotech firms - AxoSim, Cadex Genomics and Obatala Sciences - that will create 135 new direct jobs at the University of New Orleans and the New Orleans BioInnovation Center, a biotech incubator where all three firms launched local startup operations

AxoSim's innovative neuroscience drug discovery platforms are based upon technology licensed from Tulane University. The company will expand its existing facilities at the BioInnovation Center, and AxoSim projects adding 75 jobs at an average annual salary of $60,000, plus benefits. At the Advanced Materials Research Institute on the UNO campus, Cadex Genomics has opened a molecular diagnostic laboratory focused on improving cancer treatment. The company will create 50 new direct jobs with an average annual salary of $70,000, plus benefits. Obatala Sciences will expand at the same UNO institute and create 10 new jobs with an average annual salary of $80,000, plus benefits. Obatala produces biotech tools for improving the speed and effectiveness of pharmaceutical development.

"Louisiana continues to elevate its profile and accomplishments in the bioscience sector," Gov. Edwards said. "We recently announced the attraction of a globally renowned bariatric surgery and research program to Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge. Here in New Orleans, AxoSim, Cadex Genomics and Obatala Sciences are expanding the boundary of what's possible in bioscience, so that patients and their physicians can gain faster access to better treatment in the future. We're grateful that these innovative companies see the benefits of expanding in Louisiana."

Collectively, the companies will create 135 new direct jobs over the next five years with a combined $9.1 million in annual payroll. Louisiana Economic Development estimates the biotech expansions will result in another 143 new indirect jobs, for a total of 278 new jobs in New Orleans and Southeast Louisiana.

"We are continuing to create high-quality jobs and making it possible for emerging high-technology businesses to prosper in New Orleans," Mayor Cantrell said. "These companies will help incentivize local graduates to stay in our city, while also creating advanced job training opportunities for those currently enrolled in programs involving medical technology and clinical laboratory sciences. We are empowering our local workforce and meeting people where they are."

"We are thrilled to welcome the growth of these companies in New Orleans," said Quentin L. Messer, Jr., president and CEO of the New Orleans Business Alliance. "Creating expanded opportunities for high-quality jobs in biotechnology is a key objective of the New Orleans Business Alliance, Louisiana Economic Development and the City of New Orleans. Beyond the jobs and investment, these companies are changing lives, which is why economic development matters."

AxoSim's Nerve-On-A-ChipĀ® and Mini-Brain technologies use bioengineered, living human cells in a 3D environment to expedite the testing of new neuroscience drugs. The models reduce reliance on animal testing and produce far more relevant human data, with the aim of allowing important new drugs to reach patients sooner and at a lower cost.

"Our innovative technology upends R&D convention by allowing neuroscientists to test new drugs in human systems early in development," AxoSim CEO Lowry Curley said. "Locating AxoSim in New Orleans also is an unconventional and winning strategy. Our core technology is licensed from Tulane, the region is a rich source of scientific talent, the New Orleans BioInnovation Center provides first-rate facilities, and the New Orleans Business Alliance helps fuel our drive to conquer devastating neurological diseases."

Cadex Genomics seeks to improve cancer-patient outcomes by providing physicians with real-time diagnostic tools to guide late-stage cancer treatment. The company is based in Redwood City, California, and has collaborated with researchers at the New Orleans BioInnovation Center.

"Opening our research lab in New Orleans follows our acquisition of intellectual property earlier this year that was based in part on research at, and in collaboration with, leading academic medical centers in Louisiana," said Cadex Genomics CEO Bill Haack. "We were also impressed by the infrastructure, training and research incentives offered by the New Orleans Business Alliance and Louisiana Economic Development, along with the ability to source the talent needed to meet our technical hiring requirements."

In moving from the New Orleans BioInnovation Center to UNO's Advanced Materials Research Institute, Obatala Sciences will further develop its biotech toolkit designed to promote new therapies in tissue engineering and regenerative medicine. Obatala's use of advanced stem-cell technology can fill a critically unmet knowledge gap of the human biological response and expedite the emergence of new treatments and prevention therapies for obesity, diabetes and regenerative medicine.

"Obatala Sciences is excited to contribute to our budding biotech ecosystem here in New Orleans, and we are dedicated to this cause," company CEO Trivia Frazier said. "We recognize the value of investing in our community and partnering with the local educational institutions to retain the talent necessary to advance our mission. In this manner, New Orleans can establish a blueprint for other cities with a growing population that possesses highly technical expertise within in a traditionally underserved region."

In conjunction with the biotech growth, LED will enter a $3 million Cooperative Endeavor Agreement with Tulane University, LSU and the New Orleans BioInnovation Center to provide greater collaboration, bridge funding and a strategic path for the long-term sustainability of the BioInnovation Center. LED will provide $1.5 million in three annual installments of $500,000 through the 2022 state fiscal year, while LSU and Tulane each will provide $750,000 in three annual installments of $250,000. The BioInnovation Center will act as a hub for biotech activity in Louisiana and foster the further development of applied bioscience research transferred from LSU and Tulane. The BioInnovation Center will assist LED in efforts to attract, retain and expand biotech companies like AxoSim, Cadex Genomics and Obatala Sciences in Louisiana.

"We are proud of these local companies and their expansion in the Greater New Orleans region. As we focus on diversifying our economy, these three companies embody the opportunity the biosciences and technology sectors bring to our market," said Michael Hecht, president & CEO of GNO, Inc. "Ultimately, this is about creating good-paying jobs for our people, and we look forward to supporting the growth of these companies."

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