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$65 million biotech institute opens wing in Huntsville

HUNTSVILLE (AP) — The $65 million HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology in Huntsville has opened a new wing to house firms involved in research activities.

Gov. Bob Riley joined several hundred people Friday for the opening of the Associates Wing of the new institute that will house 12 biotechnology firms.

These firms will work on cutting-edge tools for researchers, unique databases and massive gene libraries. They will work on drug delivery systems, battle cystic fibrosis and study what genes allow an animal to survive at the mouth of an active volcano or in frozen soil.

Employees

About 200 employees will move in soon. Another 100 or so researchers will move into the institute’s nonprofit research side next year.

Institute leaders said that by putting researchers in close proximity with the biotech firms, ideas may be spawned and medicines or technologies to tackle disease brought to market more quickly.

“The founders really believe that the free enterprise system joined with academic research and an educational outreach program is the best way to get things from the lab to the patient,” said Jim Hudson, president and one of the founders of the institute, located in Cummings Research Park.

The institute joins many companies in the park dedicated to rocket and missile work which began in the city during the 1950s with the arrival of a group of German engineers and scientists led by rocket pioneer Wernher von Braun.

“We said when we had the groundbreaking here that you’re going to see an expansion in the biotech industry unlike anything that we have ever seen in Huntsville since the 1950s,” Riley said.

Even before it opened the institute began experiencing growing pains. When the project was announced in 2005, six companies were ready to move into the building, and there was room for two more, Hudson said.

But that expanded to 12 and there wasn’t enough space for two other companies, he said.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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