By this summer, scientists could be creating tailored medicines, studying proteins and learning about biotechnology practices in a downtown Franklin building.
Franklin College students would get the chance to have a paid internship learning about biotechnology, and others could learn about methods used at the new company in lectures or a new class the company would bring to the college.
The new company would add about 40 jobs, including scientists, finance and business positions, and would also bring a new field to Franklin.
“This is something to build the future of the city around,” Franklin College president James Moseley said. “We believe that Franklin the city could really develop around this kind of business.”
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B2S Life Sciences chose Franklin because founder Ron Bowsher has lectured at Franklin College in the last five years, and he saw the dedication and passion that the students have, Bowsher said.
The biotherapeutic firm wants to move its laboratory division, which tailors pharmacy drugs to specific conditions and patients’ needs, to downtown Franklin by this summer, said chief executive officer Aleks Davis. The company wants to buy a vacant building at 97 E. Monroe St., and install a lab on the first floor and offices on the second.
B2S labs will improve the building inside and out over the next year, and invest $1 million in renovations and equipment, Davis said.
In order to land the company, the city has offered an incentive package totaling more than $500,000 in loans, grants and cash. The package includes $250,000 in cash for construction from the city’s tax-increment financing, or TIF, district funding, a $50,000 grant to improve the facade of the building and a $200,000 low-interest loan for building renovations from the Franklin Development Corp. and a three-year, 100 percent tax break on property taxes for the building. Any incentives would still need to be approved by the city council, Franklin Development Corp. and the Franklin Redevelopment Commission.
“I think through much hard work and stress, I think we have a project here to present that will be an incredible addition to not just the downtown, but the entire city (and) the entire community,” McGuinness said.
“I think it’s a huge catalyst for future development that we could have here, and I think that B2S (Labs) is the right move.”
B2S Life Sciences started in 2002 in Beech Grove as a consulting firm. The consulting firm now employs about 25 people and has worked with pharmaceutical companies on improving drugs given to patients with conditions including cancer or diabetes. They have grown from working with companies in-state to now having more than 50 percent of their clients outside of the U.S., Bowsher said.
The company has worked with more than 100 clients worldwide — from independent companies to large corporations — to tailor proteins and peptides in pharmaceutical drugs. By doing that, the drugs can be more effective to the individual patient.
Last year, the company created a second division for lab work, which employs five people. Currently, they outsource their lab work to laboratories on the east and west coasts, which do the specific tailoring of the drugs. But the company wants a permanent lab in Indiana.
Now, their plan is to create a laboratory and office in Franklin, where about 40 people will work in biotechnology, business, finances and marketing.
The demand for this type of specialized biotechnology services is high now after the Affordable Care Act went into effect, Bowsher said. Under the Affordable Care Act, more regulations were put into place for generic-brand drugs, which B2S Labs typically works with to try to improve.
Due to the increase in regulations, more companies like B2S Labs are needed to create products with higher standards that work more effectively, he said. The Food and Drug Administration also has enforced stricter rules on pharmaceuticals in recent years, like how effective a drug needs to be, so companies like B2S Labs work with drug manufacturers to make those drugs safer, more effective and made cleanly.
For the last five months, B2S labs has pursued the 97 E. Monroe St. location due in part to its proximity to Franklin College. Once the lab is open, B2S Labs wants to offer paid internships to college students and professors, Davis said. The company already is presenting a lecture series at the college to talk more about the biotherapeutic advances and methods used in the company.
The company is planning partnerships with both Franklin College and Franklin schools. Students can learn lessons in science, business, finance and communications from hands-on learning experiences at the lab, through field trips or special lectures. And the company benefits from having additional students and faculty to help in the summer.
For Franklin College, that means more students studying biotechnology sciences will have hands-on opportunities that they may not have otherwise.
“We’re able to talk about real-life applications of those theoretical things and it makes the topic more relevant to the students,” Bowsher said.
Other cities around the state have benefited by centering around a science-based industry, Moseley said. For example, Warsaw in northern Indiana has become a destination site for ortho therapeutic medicine, and Franklin could soon become the go-to location for biotechnology sciences, he said.
“If we could build a thriving economic base in Franklin, something really distinctive could happen here,” Moseley said.
“I think this is a great sign of hope for the long-term future of the city.”
Being downtown also allows employees to be within walking distance of restaurants, shops and museums.
“I just enjoy that idea of being able to walk out and see the community, and there are places to go and do things,” Davis said.
“It increases employee satisfaction to have those amenities around them.”
The property at 97 E. Monroe St. has been vacant since 2012. Some work was started to renovate the building by an Indianapolis-based developer, but the project fell through. Within the last year, restaurants, breweries and apartments have all considered renovating the space, but nothing formal was proposed, and the Franklin Development Corp. bought the property last year.
Under the proposed incentive package, the city-created agency would sell the building for $75,000. Since the building is vacant, it would qualify for the vacant building tax abatement program, and would receive a three-year 100 percent tax break.
B2S Labs was created last year as an offshoot of B2S Consulting, a biotherapeutic firm in Beech Grove. B2S Labs tailors medicines for clients to make them more effective. In the past, the company has worked with patients with diabetes or cancer.
What they do?
They tailor pharmaceutical drugs to work more effectively on individual patients or illnesses.
Who have they worked with?
More than 100 companies ranging from large pharmaceutical companies to smaller independent companies. More than 50 percent of their clients are located outside of the United States.
Number of jobs?
The company as a whole currently employs about 30. Forty new jobs would be coming to Franklin
Locations and what they do?
Their consulting firm, which works with pharmaceutical companies to improve pharmacy drugs, is located in Beech Grove. The lab work currently done for B2S Labs is outsourced to laboratories on the east and west coast.
When would they move in?
Here is a look at the incentives the city is considering:
$200,000: low-interest loan from the Franklin Development Corp., which would go toward construction
$50,000 matching grant from the Franklin Development Corp. to upgrade the facade of the building
Three-year, 100 percent, tax abatement from the city, which would mean the company would not pay any property taxes on the building for the first three years
$250,000 in tax-increment financing, or TIF, dollars from the Franklin Redevelopment Commission for renovation of the building