Category Archives: High-Tech

Biotech is Booming in Lexington!

Last week was the annual Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) International Convention. Every year BIO brings biotechnology leaders and innovators together to showcase cutting edge technologies and to offer a week-long opportunity for participants to network and create partnerships. Attendee’s at last year’s convention included over 15,000 people from more than 60 countries, 300+ academic institutions, top 25 pharma companies, top 20 CROs and CMOs, and 1,800 exhibitors.

This year’s convention was held in Philadelphia, and members of the Bluegrass Business Development Partnership (BBDP) were in attendance. The BBDP includes representatives from Commerce Lexington Inc., the University of Kentucky, and the City of Lexington. The BBDP delegation traveled to BIO to advocate for Lexington and Kentucky, to meet with current prospects, and to develop new leads to bring businesses to the Bluegrass.

Lexington is an ideal location for innovative and high-tech companies, largely for its human assets. In fact, 40.1% of Lexingtonians have a bachelor’s degree or higher, which is considerably more than the national average of 28.8%. Lexington consistently earns high praise for its educated citizens. In 2014, Lexington was ranked the 23rd Most Educated City by Wallet Hub and the World’s 24th Smartest City by National Geographic. Lexington has also ranked #7 Best City in Terms of Business Cost (2014), #7 Best Midsized City for Jobs (2013), and #17 America’s Top 25 High-Tech Hotspots (2013).

Over 50 biotech companies have chosen to locate in Lexington, but two have recently made the news: AntiOp Inc. and Transposagen Biopharmaceuticals.

AntiOp Inc. founder Daniel Wermeling created an anti-overdose nasal spray to help save lives from heroin overdoses and has sold the life-saving product to the biotech firm Indivior, PLC. Depending on FDA approval, it may be on the market within six months. The FDA has fast-tracked the spray because there is an unmet medical need for heroin overdose treatment and the spray offers an innovative response with several advantages over existing injection-based anti-overdose methods. By removing the need for a needle, Wermeling’s invention can be used quickly, safely, and successfully by pre-hospital responders (i.e., on-the-scene law enforcement, paramedics, or even family members), and reduces the recipient’s risk of contracting hepatitis or HIV.

AntiOp, Inc. received approximately $4.5 million in SBIR/STTR funds to create the overdose antidote ($650,000 was returned because Indivior is not based in Kentucky). Wermeling, a University of Kentucky College of Pharmacy professor, created the life-saving nasal spray with support from the University of Kentucky and over $5 million in federal and state tax workers.

UK’s College of Pharmacy is the 5th Best Pharmacy Program in the nation and is an asset to Lexington. The cutting-edge medical research on disease and drug development performed by the grad students, faculty, and staff has benefited the area and the nation. Graduates enrich the workforce and faculty members have created 25 startup companies since 1989, including Wermeling’s AntiOp.

Another excellent example is Transposagen Biopharmaceuticals, a Lexington-based biotech company that has been honored with the Tibbetts Award. The Tibbetts Award is granted for exemplary technological innovation and SBIR achievement. This year the U.S. Small Business Administration granted the Tibbett Award to six individuals, three supporting organizations, and 23 small businesses, one of which was Transposagen.

Transposagen Biopharmaceuticals is a privately held biotechnology company that specializes in genetic manipulation technologies, stem cell engineering services, and creating genetically modified laboratory rats. Altering the genetic code of rat models allows scientists and researchers to compare modified organisms with normal organisms to better understand gene functions and advance medical research on disease and drug discovery.

“We at Transposagen are dedicated to providing improvements to the nation and to the world through application of our industry-leading genome engineering technologies. Receiving the Tibbetts Award is a great honor and further fuels our drive to produce high-quality, versatile gene editing tools that play a significant role in improving the quality of human life,” said Eric Ostertag, M.D., Ph.D., founder and CEO of Transposagen, reported by Globe Newswire

Last year, Transposagen entered into a multi-million dollar research collaboration and worldwide license agreement with Janssen Biotech, Inc. to develop allogenic cells that may one day be “on the shelf” cancer treatments that will not require a donor-recipient match. Transposagen’s genome editing technologies will be used to create allogenic Chimeric Antigen Receptor T-cells (CAR-T) therapies, and Janssen will pay up to $292 million per CAR-T therapy.

AntiOp, UK’s College of Pharmacy, and Transposagen are only a few examples of Lexington’s thriving business industry and the success that entrepreneurs and small businesses can have here in Lexington.

Small Business Week in Kentucky

May 4th through 8th is Small Business Week and with 300,000 small businesses in Kentucky employing almost 750,000 people, Kentucky has proven to be an advantageous and beneficial location for entrepreneurs and innovators.

Small businesses enrich our economy and support job growth here in Lexington, and two state programs have been particularly helpful to our local businesses: the SBIR-STTR Matching Funds Grant Program and the Kentucky Small Business Tax Credit Initiative.

The Kentucky Small Business Tax Credit (KSBTC) helps grow small businesses with less than 50 full time employees by providing an annual tax credit of up to $25,000 to support hiring new employees or making investments in new equipment or technology of at least $5,000.

Kentucky’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR)/Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Matching Funds Grant Program aims to help technology-oriented small businesses. SBIR/STTR provides matching funds to support work that goes along with existing Federal SBIR/STTR Awards, up to $150,000 for Phase 1 and up to $500,000 for Phase II. Out-of-state applicants must relocate to Kentucky and maintain Kentucky-based status for at least five years, with at least 51% of the company’s property and payroll in Kentucky, and must spend at least 51% of the grant money in Kentucky.

Since its inception in 2006, 25 companies have relocated to Lexington because of the SBIR/STTR Matching Funds Grant Program, creating 115 new full time jobs and 12 new part time jobs with an average annual wage of $65,000.   In 2014 alone, four high-tech companies were attracted to Lexington because of SBIR grants. These companies created 17 new jobs with an average wave over $80,000.

More information about the Lexington-based organization that helps small businesses can be found here.

Innovation Index

To innovate means literally to renew or change something. Innovation is about coming up with a better process, creating a new product, improving an existing one, opening a new market, finding a new source of supply or creating a better way to organize ourselves. Innovation may be technology-driven today but it is just as likely to focus on a new and better way for people to work together.

Why is innovation such a hot topic right now?

Quite simply, we believe it to be the primary drive of economic growth – and after years of recession across the industrial world, growth is a top priority. However, innovation turns out to be surprisingly hard to measure, since it flows through ideas and experiments into services and products.

An initiative of the U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration, Purdue University, and Indiana University is working to provide a deeper understanding of where innovation is taking place.  StatsAmerica  has produced an “innovation index” for every county in the United States. Kentucky’s county-level results are illustrated on the map below, with the highest innovation index values anchoring the three angles of the urban triangle—the Louisville area, Northern Kentucky, and Fayette County. The index is based on four broad categories and includes 22 different variables. The four broad categories include Human Capital, Economic Dynamics, Productivity and Employment, and Economic Well-Being. Some of the variables include educational attainment, high-technology employment, broadband adoption, venture capital investments, patent creation, worker productivity, proprietor income, the poverty rate, and per capita income.

The index is scaled so that 100 is the U.S. average. The highest ranked Kentucky county is Fayette at 101.8. Santa Clara County, California—which is Silicon Valley—and Broomfield County, Colorado—which is the Denver area—have the highest values in the United States at 125.4 each; Hancock County, Tennessee, which is located along the Kentucky-Tennessee border in the eastern region has the lowest index value in the country at 61.7.

Kentucky Innovation Index by County

Innovation Index
Source:, funded in part by the U.S. Department of Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration. Work was conducted by the Purdue Center for Regional Development, the Indiana Business Research Center at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business, and other research partners.

Efforts by the Von Allmen Center for Entrepreneurship within the Gatton College of Business and Economics, the Innovation Network for Entrepreneurial Thinking (iNET) within the College of Communication and Information at the University of Kentucky, as well as Kentucky’s Innovation Network, a partnership between the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development and Kentucky Science and Technology Corporation, are designed to stimulate entrepreneurialism, foster commercialization, and improve the state’s innovation capacity – essential elements for our collective future.

To read more about innovation in Kentucky, check out the 2015 Kentucky Annual Economic Report, recently released by the Center for Business and Economic Research at the Gatton College of Business and Economics at the University of Kentucky.

– CLX Economic Development Team

Commerce Lexington Update

  • Piramal Enterprises Limited, an Indian firm based in Mumbai, has acquired Coldstream Laboratories  for $30.6 million. Coldstream was founded in 2007 and controlled by the University of Kentucky research foundation.  Coldstream is a contract development and manufacturing organisation (CDMO) focused on the development and manufacturing of sterile injectable products.  Coldstream currently employs 91 people.

The Social Side of Gaming

59% of Americans play video games. – Entertainment Software Association

Driven by strong mobile gaming and video game console and software sales, the worldwide video game marketplace is forecast to reach $111 billion by 2015. Thanks to a growing community of local gamers and support from a host of local agencies, including Commerce Lexington and the Lexington Innovation and Commercialization Center, Lexington now has seven full-fledged game development companies that are increasingly bringing those dollars to the Bluegrass.

Last Tuesday, September 30, Commerce Lexington and the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development brought seven freelance journalists to town to visit with local game developers at Awesome Inc., the tech business incubator on Main Street. For two hours, journalists played games and interviewed developers, gaining a sense of the excitement and passion surrounding Lexington’s gaming community.

Lexington Gaming
Freelance journalists visit with local game developers at Awesome Inc.

Game development companies located in Lexington include:

Cultivating the local gaming community is Run Jump Dev, a nonprofit that is committed to creating strong game developers and successful companies in the Bluegrass Region. Seeded with raw passion for creating games, Run Jump Dev hosts workshops, networking events, game jams, and helps connect local gaming entrepreneurs to funding and business development opportunities.

Could Lexington soon be known as “The Horse and Video Game Capital of the World?”

– CLX Economic Development Team

Commerce Lexington Update

  • Commerce Lexington released the October 2014 edition of Business Focus
  • One of Lexington’s newest residents, Seamus Carey, Ph.D., Transylvania University’s 26th president, will be headlining Good Morning Bluegrass on Tuesday, October 7th
  • Commerce Lexington will host Senator Mitch McConnell at a Public Policy Luncheon, Friday, October 10th.