And with that the state's Center of Excellence programs have been funded for collaboration between universities and private sector entities, which has impacted the ability to do work in life sciences.
"This will have a significant impact in the life sciences," states Phyllis E. Johnson, Vice President for Research and Economic Development at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks, ND.
Johnson adds that it is about jobs and it is about new products. "In the end if a North Dakota business can produce products that are sold out of state we are essentially bringing money from outside the state into North Dakota," she explains. "It is not just about creating jobs, it is about creating product that is of interest to the rest of the world."
In Grand Forks, the Center of Excellence funding helped with the construction of the REAC facility that houses the vaccine company, Novadigm, as well as Avianax (a life science company,) and other companies.
Novadigm is currently in Phase 1 trials of a vaccine for Staph aureus and Candida, two organisms responsible for many hospital-acquired infections. Novadigm provided a grant to UND to seed research in immunology that may lead to future potential products for the company.
"Once we develop relationships they grow in many ways," Johnson says.
Satish Chandran, who heads the new Center for Biopharmaceutical Research and Production at North Dakota State University in Fargo, ND, was brought in to help develop relationships to grow the life sciences field in the Red River Valley Research Corridor.
The Center will focus on identifying and producing vaccines that can be brought to clinical trial. Chandran hopes to show one vaccine promise for clinical trials in five years. "We want to be able to put multiple vaccines into clinic and partner to move vaccine through the clinic," he explains.
One of those partners could be Altravax, Inc., a privately held biopharmaceutical company located in Fargo with research facilities in Sunnyvale, CA. The company is focused on the discovery and development of new vaccines to fight infectious diseases.
"Our proprietary technologies offer unique opportunities to create novel vaccine or improve currently available alternatives to fill unmet medical needs," states Michael Jablon, Director of Operations. "The company has a robust pipeline of candidates at various stages of development."
Jablon adds that the support and assistance of the Center for Biopharmaceutical Research and Development has helped attract highly skilled talent that can provide advice and support on key issues Alvatrax might otherwise have to outsource out of state.
"The specialized experience of the Center of Excellence is a very important compliment to help Altravax bring our product to market," he states.
Part of Chandran's job is to set up an ecosystem that flourishes. Right now many of the strategic pieces are missing and that is being assembled.
The impact of this ecosystem is that many companies will start from the Center and bring companies to the area. "All have aspirations to move into product," Chandran says. "An ecosystem can meet the needs of all. We will work with multiple companies and drive products forward."
There is a constant challenge of attracting the right talent to drive the life sciences forward. Then there is funding.
"The State is participating in making it happen," Chandran states.
Chandran states that it is going to take approximately $8 million over the next three years to get the Center up and running and another $5 million to $10 million over each of the next four years before it becomes self-sustaining.
He adds that once it does get going as companies grow and products move, there will be more high value jobs entering the region.
As companies in the life science industry grow, this will also create opportunities for businesses in North Dakota providing support services such as HR, IT, marketing, and accounting.
Jablon says that this is bringing yet another segment of Silicon Valley to the region. "Where as the silicon revolution spawned successful software and electronics companies, we're predicting a major growth industry which spring from innovations in life science," he states. "Akin to the rapid advancements in micro electronics and software development, the life science industry is making incredible advancements at the molecular level with a rapidly increasing understanding of our own biological machinery."