Despite budget cuts, companies thrive at bioscience incubator

A year after concerns that state budget cuts might hinder the efforts of Augusta's downtown bioscience business incubator, its director is reporting the resident companies have doubled revenues.

 

The nearly four-year-old Augusta BioBusiness Center, a business accelerator for life sciences companies at 973 Broad St., is operating at half of what its state funding once was, $400,000 annually. Stan DeHoff, the executive director of the Georgia Medical Center Authority, is now the facility's sole employee, but the facility continues to be funded despite state budget concerns because it "offers a good return on investment."

"For every dollar that the state has given the Georgia Medical Center Authority, the companies combined have returned approximately $1.40 back to the state as far as new tax revenues from payroll, corporate taxes, etcetera," DeHoff said.

The center supports three biotech businesses: Integrated Science Systems, REACH Health and HealthTronics Laboratory Solutions.

Integrated Science Systems sells its FDA-approved staph infection test kits across the U.S. and Canada and recently received a certification to distribute its products in Europe.

REACH Health improves the response time for suspected stroke victims in rural hospitals without a full-time neurologist. '

HealthTronics Laboratory Solutions, a diagnostic laboratory, provides services to urologists nationwide.

"The success story is that the three companies combined have nearly doubled their revenues to over $9 million. They have over 45 employees," DeHoff said.

And the average salary of the workers at those companies is $70,000, he said.

"The businesses that are generated here produce more in direct revenues to the state of Georgia than the state of Georgia spends investing in these businesses," said U.S. Rep. John Barrow, who toured the facility Tuesday. "This is the sort of thing we ought to clone and make as many of these as we possibly can. So I'm very supportive of continuing funding for this enterprise."

REACH Health, a telemedicine business, has tripled in size, and its services are being offered in 135 locations nationwide. The company has more than 40 employees and has opened a second office in Alpharetta, Ga., said executive vice president and co-founder Bill Hamilton.

A neurologist in a remote location can log into REACH's system via the Internet to operate a control cart that enables them to view medical records, examine the patient and decide whether to administer a critical drug. The company is trying to expand the technology to other medical incidents, he said.

Integrated Science Systems President and CEO Teena Enriquez said she owes her success to the center, which provided her with lab equipment, furnishings and low-cost rent.

Integrated Science produces more than 1,000 kits a month for labs and hospitals and manufactures a buffer for research and product development for a Maine company, she said.

HealthTronics Laboratory Solutions is a multimillion-dollar company, said Mark Repko, the senior director of operations for HealthTronics Laboratory.

"We're projected to have around $22.5 million in revenue this year. We have around 17 employees and a sales team covering East Coast to West Coast," Repko said.

The company has focused on prostate biopsies and the diagnosis of bladder cancer, but it plans to expand into clinical and molecular lab testing in the future, he said.

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