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Why one of the world's leading life science companies chose Pearland

The Lonza facility in Lower Kirby. Photo courtesy of Pearland Economic Development Corp.

In 2018, Switzerland-based company Lonza debuted a 300,000-square-foot life science facility in Pearland, the largest dedicated cell and gene therapy manufacturing facility in the world at the time.

What made one of the world's largest companies for contract development and manufacturing choose Lower Kirby for this groundbreaking building?

"The location was ideal for the expansion capability, proximity to the Texas Medical Center, and ease of access from major freeways 288 and Beltway 8," says Frank Bugg, Lonza's site head. "Many Lonza employees also reside in the Pearland area."

The company also sought a location for this "Center of Excellence" that would maintain a presence on the "third coast" of biotech. Lonza currently employs more than 500 at its Pearland facility.

Additional factors that made Pearland's Lower Kirby District an attractive choice for Lonza were the nearby life sciences community, infrastructure, and quality-of-life benefits such as top-rated schools and a reasonable cost of living.

The team at this location is currently leading efforts in four categories: research and development, process development, cell and gene therapy manufacturing, and viral vector manufacturing.

Cell and gene therapy is growing and these novel medicines are getting established as a validated treatment option — the field is transforming the way cancer or genetic diseases can be treated.

In 2019, Lonza provided manufacturing services for more than 300 commercial molecules and supported the development of more than 700 pre-clinical and clinical molecules in small and large molecules, as well as supporting the launch of pioneering autologous cell therapies.

These novel drug candidates provide drastically improved patient outcomes and, in some cases, can be curative. However, manufacturing of such medicines pose complex new challenges.

Today, the cost of production still represents a major hurdle for clinical translation and commercialization of these potentially groundbreaking therapies. New technologies are needed to enable robust and cost-efficient manufacturing of high-quality medicines.

While the therapeutic opportunities for patients are exciting, the stakes for patients and drug developers are high.

Lonza serves as a partner to its customers, keeping manufacturing costs under control and following the process through the regulatory bodies through to commercialization.

The company also helps develop and commercialize its customers' innovative new therapies. Lonza scientists and engineers bring decades-long development experience across a broad spectrum of cell types and technologies. With this background, they can tailor services in process and analytical development, manufacturing, and regulatory support.

The work done at Lonza is at the forefront of medical breakthroughs. These cell and gene therapies are shaping the way we treat modern diseases, and now it's being done right in Houston's own backyard.

Since the Pearland facility's opening in 2018, Lonza has continued to expand with the addition of laboratories, clean rooms, and additional parking.

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Building Houston

 
 

This week's roundup of Houston innovators includes Madison Long of Clutch, Ty Audronis of Tempest Droneworx, and Juliana Garaizar of Greentown Labs. Photos courtesy

Editor's note: In this week's roundup of Houston innovators to know, I'm introducing you to three local innovators across industries — from drones to energy tech— recently making headlines in Houston innovation.


Madison Long, co-founder and CEO of Clutch

Madison Long joins the Houston Innovators Podcast to discuss Clutch's recent national launch and the role Houston played in the company's success. Photo courtesy of Clutch

Houston-based creator economy platform Clutch — founded by CEO Madison Long and CTO Simone May — celebrated its nationwide launch earlier this month. The platform connects brands to its network of creators for reliable and authentic work — everything from social media management, video creation, video editing, content creation, graphic design projects, and more.

When the company first launched its beta in Houston, the platform (then called Campus Concierge) rolled out at three Houston-area universities: Texas Southern University, Rice University, and Prairie View A&M. The marketplace connected any students with a side hustle to anyone on campus who needed their services.

Long shares on this week's Houston Innovators Podcast that since that initial pilot, they learned they could be doing more for users.

"We recognized a bigger gap in the market," Long says. "Instead of just working with college-age students and finding them side hustles with one another, we pivoted last January to be able to help these young people get part-time, freelance, or remote work in the creator economy for businesses and emerging brands that are looking for these young minds to help with their digital marketing presence." Read more and listen to the episode.

Ty Audronis, co-founder of Tempest Droneworks

Dana Abramowitz and Ty Audronis co-founded Tempest Droneworks. Photo courtesy of Tempest Droneworx

Ty Audronis, fueled by wanting to move the needle on wildfire prevention, wanted to upgrade existing processes with real-time, three-dimensional, multi-spectral mapping, which exactly where his company, Tempest Droneworx, comes in.

That software is called Harbinger. Audronis explains that the real-time management and visualization solution is viewable on practically any device, including mobile or augmented reality. The system uses a video game engine for viewing, but as Audronis puts it, “the magic happens” on the back end.

The company was just the two founders until five weeks ago, when Tempest’s size doubled, including a full-time developer. Once Tempest receives its SIBR check, the team will grow again to include more developers. They are currently looking for offices in the city. As Audronis says, Tempest Droneworx is “100-percent made in Houston.” Read more.

Juliana Garaizar, chief development and investment officer and head of Houston incubator of Greentown Labs

Juliana Garaizar is now the chief development and investment officer at Greentown Labs, as well as continuing to be head of the Houston incubator. Image courtesy of Greentown

Greentown Labs named a new member to its C-suite. Juliana Garaizar, who originally joined Greentown as launch director ahead of the Houston opening in 2021, has been promoted from vice president of innovation to chief development and investment officer.

"I'm refocusing on the Greentown Labs level in a development role, which means fundraising for both locations and potentially new ones," Garaizar tells InnovationMap. "My role is not only development, but also investment. That's something I'm very glad to be pursuing with my investment hat. Access to capital is key for all our members, and I'm going to be in charge of refining and upgrading our investment program."

While she will also maintain her role as head of the Houston incubator, Greentown Houston is also hiring a general manager position to oversee day-to-day and internal operations of the hub. Garaizar says this role will take some of the internal-facing responsibilities off of her plate. Read more.

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