Hot Portland biotech finds suitable lab space at 11th hour to avoid leaving city

Having outgrown its space at Providence Cancer Center, UbiVac’s leaders were evaluating other options, including a possible move to San Diego or the San Francisco Bay Area.

Instead, the immunotherapy biotech is staying in Portland. The company signed a lease on a 15,000-square-foot space in an unincorporated area along Southwest Boones Ferry Road, said UbiVac CEO Bernard Fox.

UbiVac currently rents about 1,500 square feet at the Cancer Center, so the move will allow it to expand 10-fold. The space was also attractive because its former tenant, Diana Plant Sciences, had already outfitted it with wet labs and clean rooms.

The French company manufactured plant-based cosmetics, but was recently acquired by another European company. Fox said he found out in mid-December that $2 million in building improvements were going to be destroyed after the company vacated the space.

“The push was at the end because they were going to clean it out and make it a shell space,” Fox said.

He said the building will still require about $2 million of improvements to get to the point where UbiVac can manufacture drugs on site. UbiVac plans to move on April 1.

“It’s a great footprint to start with,” he said. “There isn’t that kind of space in Oregon. We were incredibly lucky.”

In November, fellow Portland biotech startup AbSci left the city for Vancouver, Wash. due to lack of suitable space.

UbiVac has already hired two additional employees and expects to hire more people as it scales up.

The Providence Cancer spinoff is in negotiations with a couple of large pharmaceutical companies to create partnerships. Last fall, it signed a research agreement with Janssen Pharmaceuticals to evaluate its proprietary immunotherapy technology for use in preclinical studies of oral cancer.

UbiVac’s “DRibble” vaccine stimulates the immune system against tumors. The vaccine is being studied for use against prostate, lung, colon and breast cancers.

“It’s a very hot time and a niche all the pharmaceutical companies are going to need,” Fox said. “We’re in a good position.”


Elizabeth Hayes
Staff Reporter
Portland Business Journal
Feb 17, 2016



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