Mane Street Memphis
Neil Strebig – Memphis Commercial Appeal – December 12, 2023
Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett made a brief visit in Memphis last week.
On Dec. 4, Hargett met with leadership at US Biologic inside their Memphis manufacturing facility at Agricenter International near Shelby Farms Park.
“We want Memphis to thrive,” Hargett said.
The discussion was the first of hopefully several, for US Biologic and state officials. The team, led by CEO Mason Kauffman and President Chris Przybyszewski, largely wanted to introduce themselves to Hargett and enter preliminary conversations for potential funding for future facility and campus expansions.
US Biologic is looking at a three-phase expansion at its current Memphis facilities. The second phase would be an expansion at its 5,000-square-foot rapid response center, which cost $1 million to develop.
That expansion would add another 15,000 square feet to the facility and an additional 25 jobs. Two more 30,000-square-foot expansions are planned to add a vaccine production center and a global headquarters and research and development center. In total, the four-phase development would add 110 jobs and cost an estimated $96 million ($10 million in equipment and furnishing costs).
US Biologic tentative expansion timeline
- Phase 1: Rapid Response Center | 5,000 square feet | Completed
- Phase 2: Rapid Response Center expansion | 20,000 square feet | 2025
- Phase 3: Vaccine Production | 30,000 square feet | 2027
- Phase 4: Global HQ /R&D Center | 30,000 square feet | 2028
US Biologic develops several vaccines including a Lyme disease vaccine distributed through the company’s LymeShield Station device. The device holds approximately 100 pellets in each of its six compartments, the pellets are spray-coated with the Lyme disease vaccine and the station is placed in a location where mice discover the pellets. The vaccine is administrated through the mice after they have digested the pellets. As the mice come in contact with ticks, the disease isn’t passed on from mice to tick[s]. It effectively eliminates a key component to the spread of the disease. (Lyme disease in humans and pets is passed through contact with the borrelia burgdorferi bacteria. That initial transfer of bacteria begins with contact between mice and ticks.)
In May, my colleague and Commercial Appeal education reporter John Klyce wrote a great feature during his time with the Memphis Business Journal about the LymeShield Station and its application.
Hargett said that article was how he first discovered US Biologic and its connection to Memphis.
While any potential partnership and funding with the state is still in its adolescence, Hargett said he was impressed at the scope of work US Biologic was developing. He was also impressed at the commitment the Agricenter is looking to create including a potential $30 million expansion plan for its Innovation District.
Kauffman said the Innovation District expansion [are] Agricenter plans, but it bodes well for the entire campus including US Biologic. He said the ability to have a year-round research lab where the soil can be tested is vital for agricultural companies on the campus and helps improve research for US Biologic.
“At the Agricenter we have a blank canvas,” US Biologic Chief Manufacturing Officer Steve Zatechka said. Zatechka added the Agricenter has the capacity for approximately 1,500 acres of experimental farmland.
The company currently studies and understands several pathogens carried by animals, such as Lyme disease. Przybyszewski said the company is also working on a chewable gummy vaccine for influenza. Ultimately, instead of getting an annual flu shot, we would be able to digest a gummy-like vitamin with the same vaccine, he said.
Przybyszewski also highlighted the location of Memphis from a logistics standpoint and the ability the area has to distribute any vaccine.
While the Dec. 4 meeting didn’t yield any specific news or headlines, it was a meeting of note I wanted to highlight. It also was a meeting that shows how several of these economic development deals begin and manifest over time.
They start with an introduction and conversation.