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BioDerm Sciences facility opened in Oxford last October

Momentum builds for pharmaceutical cluster in North Mississippi

Oxford — With the opening of the BioDerm Sciences Inc. headquarters and manufacturing facilities in the new Oxford Enterprise Center this past October, officials hope that the momentum has been created for the development of a pharmaceutical cluster in North Mississippi, with Oxford as its hub.

BioDerm, which develops and makes topical products to speed the healing of wounds, joins Oxford’s two other pharmaceutical companies, Medical Marketing Economics and ElSolay Laboratories, as well as a growing number of pharmaceutical distribution centers near Memphis, according to Walt Chambliss, director of the University of Mississippi’s (Ole Miss) division of technology management.

“We’ve discussed the advantages of locating in Oxford to at least four small pharmaceutical companies,” Chambliss said. “What was missing was the presence of a company of

BioDerm Sciences global stature and maturity to demonstrate that the advantages really exist. I believe this will serve as a catalyst for other companies to seriously consider Oxford.”

“We’d like to have this kind of industry cluster in the Oxford area,” according to Alice Clark, vice chancellor for research at Ole Miss. “When you have a university’s research capabilities attracting companies to an innovation nexus, that can happen.”

“BioDerm Sciences appears to be just the type of match that local leaders have been trying to get here,” Mayor Richard Howorth said.

“It’s a win-win for everybody,” according to Max Hipp, executive director of the Oxford-Lafayette County Economic Development Foundation. “The company’s decision to come to Oxford says a lot about our quality of life.”

BioDerm is located in the new Oxford Enterprise Center, a city-owned site for start-up companies. It will occupy some 12,000 square feet for its U.S. headquarters and manufacturing facility and its expected to provide 55 high-paying jobs.

“This is a great example of how research like that being down here can attract the interest of innovative entrepreneurial companies,” Clark said.

The company was already involved in a relationship with researchers at the Ole Miss School of Pharmacy and National Center for Natural Products research when university officials discovered that BioDerm was searching for a manufacturing location.

Chambliss said, “Our Natural Products Center has some very exciting new ingredients that could be useful in wound care products.”

BioDerm is expected to give Ole Miss pharmaceutical graduates a chance to work in their field without having to leave Oxford and to employ both graduate and undergraduate interns. It also gives Ole Miss alumni the chance to return to Oxford, Chambliss said.

Salaries for BioDerm employees will range from $55,000 to $60,000. The company will choose a CEO who will be based in Oxford.

Oxford and university officials describe the Enterprise Center, in the Oxford Industrial Park off Highway 7 South, as an affordable location for start-up companies. Already located there are FNC, an Ole Miss research spinoff that provides the mortgage industry with services and software and which occupies 6,000 square feet, and Miltec, an Alabama-based defense contractor affiliated with the university’s National Center for Physical Acoustics, which occupies 9,000 square feet.

The Enterprise Center has a total of 29,000 square feet.
Randy Hoggle, chairman of the board, said, “Oxford has three tremendous advantages for BioDerm.”

They include a community and university leadership that understands and appreciates the value of attracting a series of pharmaceutical companies to their community; an intelligent, hardworking and honest professional work force and future employee training ground at Ole Miss, and a culture that understands the importance of people and the contributions they make to their community as well as the importance of a commitment to ensure their companies succeed in world markets.

“The strength of the Southern states’ communities and academic institutions has been undervalued for decades by the healthcare industry,” Hoggle added. “BioDerm Sciences will be only the first in a long line of pharmaceutical and other healthcare companies that will begin to recognize the value of such a relocation to Mississippi.”

Chambliss praised several state and local leaders for being instrumental in attracting BioDerm to Oxford. He cited Blake Thompson, legislative assistant to U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran, for introducing BioDerm to the Ole Miss School of Pharmacy and the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs, as well as Matt Thornton, vice president of research and innovation for the Mississippi Technology Alliance, Max Hipp and Joey Roberts, project manager for the Mississippi Development Authority. Hoggle singled out U.S. Rep. Roger Wicker and his staff for helping to facilitate the move.

BioDerm, which has a location in Ireland, has recently launched four products in Europe and has another nine ready to go to market. These will launch over the next 18 months.
A BioDerm spokesperson describes the wound solution as being intended to cleanse, irrigate and externally manage dermal lesions such as lacerations, partial and full-thickness wounds, burns and ulcers. It can also be used to remove foreign matter, bacteria and tissue debris.

The company is a spin-off of Health Pathways Inc. of Gaithersburg, Md. and maintains its global headquarters in Rockville, Md.

Contact MBJ contributing writer at George McNeill at mbj@msbusiness.com.

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