Biopsy Sciences boomerangs back to Pinellas
Who says nothing happens in business during the Thanksgiving week? Gov. Charlie Crist is making some noise by touting the relocation of biomedical research and device company Biopsy Sciences from Tucson, Ariz., to Pinellas County and bringing new, high-wage jobs paying 200 percent of the county’s average annual wage. There's a funny twist in this tale, so read on.
Who are these guys? According to the company Web site, Biopsy Sciences was founded by John Fisher MD (shown at left, photo courtesy of company), an interventional radiologist with extensive experience in breast imaging and breast biopsy. He has performed over 500 stereotactic and ultrasound guided breast biopsies, and breast biopsy site marker placements. The company's product is known as the HydroMARK and is described as "a novel, water containing, ultrasound visible marker" that helps patients by "replacing lengthy mammogram guided wire localization procedures with quick, accurate ultrasound guided localization procedures that are more comfortable." Biopsy Sciences has also developed the BioSEAL biopsy tract sealant which significantly reduces the incidence of pneumothorax and chest tube placement following CT guided lung biopsy. (The BioSEAL was acquired by Angiotech Pharmaceuticals in 2008 and is expected to be released in 2009, according to the Web site.)
Biopsy Sciences CEO Fisher this week outlined why the company’s locating in Pinellas County:
“Through my work with the medical community here in Pinellas, I knew the area had the right combination of medical component manufacturers and health care industry professionals to support the HydroMARK product. This relocation allows us to not only create high-value jobs in research and development applications, but will allocate clean room space to manufacture these products for the first time in-house.”
Ah yes, all grand. Here's what neither Fisher nor Gov. Crist bothered to mention. Fisher and a partner actually founded Biopsy Sciences here in 2001, then within weeks moved the company to Tucson, where another partner who worked at the University of Arizona provided access to its polymer chemistry lab, according to the Tampa Bay Business Journal in 2002. Fisher previously was director of interventional radiology at Morton Plant Hospital in Clearwater and commuted to Arizona. The move there was based on better access to capital and facilities. Fisher always indicated he wanted to return to this area.
Well, he's coming back -- and we're delighted -- but it was an interesting omission from the official press releases. I suppose it sounds better to say we're winning a new player here rather than saying we're recapturing a business founded here that wandered away for awhile.
Local economic development officials boast the latest arrival joins SRI-St. Petersburg (facility shown in rendering, courtesy of SRI) and Draper Laboratory as new high-tech players involved in medical research and manufacturing. SRI's R&D facility will be located near the oceanographic and marine science agencies in the Bayboro Harbor section of the city. In January 2007, SRI officially began operations by accepting the transfer of approximately 40 staff members from the University of South Florida's Center for Ocean Technology in St. Petersburg. SRI-St. Petersburg is temporarily located on the USF campus at Bayboro Harbor.
Nanotechnology experts at Draper, based in Cambridge, Mass., will have two area locations. It's purchasing the former Oerlikon Systems, 40,000-square-foot building is at 10050 16th St. N in St. Petersburg as its Multi Chip Module (MCM) Center. And in Tampa, Draper will operate its initial 10,000 square feet BioMEMS R&D Center on the second floor of a USF building at 3802 Spectrum Blvd., just off Fowler Avenue. More on Draper's plans in a recent column here.
As for Biopsy Sciences, the company took advantage of Florida’s Qualified Targeted Industry (QTI) program to assist with the financial implications of relocating. Through a partnership between the Governor’s Office of Tourism, Trade and Economic Development (OTTED), Enterprise Florida, Pinellas County, and the City of Pinellas Park, the QTI allows employers in targeted, high-growth industries to receive tax refunds for every new, high-paying job created.
-- Robert Trigaux, Times Business Columnist