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CNY company hopes expansion will jump start regional biotech industry

SUNY ESF doctoral student Kris Grohn in a lab at Ichor Therapeutics in LaFayette

Central New York could become a hub for biotechnology research if one local company gets its way. The expansion of Ichor Therapeutics in Lafayette includes creating more regional development and educational opportunities in the Syracuse area.

LaFayette isn’t just about apples anymore. That was the major theme as local lawmakers lauded Ichor Therapeutics' announcement of three major initiatives that lay the base for an expansion of biotechnology research in central New York.

CEO Kelsey Moody said Ichor, which focuses on drugs that can combat age-related illness, is expanding. It will be constructing new facilities and adding to its workforce. It has also created a strategic investment fund, called Grapeseed Bio, to help other companies settle in central New York. A company called Repair Biotechnologies will be the first to make the move.

Finally, it’s partnering with SUNY ESF to train graduate students and then offer real-life work experience.

Moody said academia and industry working together could lay the groundwork for a thriving biotech hub, but that kind of collaboration doesn’t necessarily happen right now.

"We’re going to break down these barriers to entry, break down these silos and leverage these skill sets and capacities of both higher ed institutions as well as startup companies," said Moody.

He said there’s no reason initiatives like this can’t kickstart the biotech industry in central New York.

"We think the best investments in biotech are in central New York," said Moody. "We are buying buildings for the cost of rent in Boston and Silicon Valley. With all of the nearby universities, the access to capital and intellectual capital. If we want to build this region, we need to be able to leverage those assets. We need to put our money where our mouth is.”

SUNY ESF officials say the scientific study of human aging has ballooned in recent years.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.