Public Release: 

International biotech firm to locate in Southwest Virginia

Virginia Tech

BLACKBURG, VA, June 29, 1999 -- Pharming Healthcare Inc., the American subsidiary of Pharming Group N.V. of Leiden, Netherlands, will locate two unique pharmaceutical production installations in Southwest Virginia. A "transgenic" cattle farm in Craig County and purification facility at the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center will comprise the first and second stages of its unique production line.

Pharming, the world largest producer of transgenically produced pharmaceuticals, plans to invest about $37 million in Virginia to produce Human Factor VIII and Fibrinogen in the milk of transgenic animals. The company will produce supplies of these therapeutic blood clotting proteins to treat patients with hemophilia and control bleeding in surgery and trauma.

In making this announcement with Virginia Governor James Gilmore, George J.M. Hersbach, chairman of Pharming Healthcare Inc. and president and CEO of Pharming Group NV, said "We have selected western Virginia for this phase of Pharming Healthcare's growth because it offers an excellent infrastructure, including conditions to satisfy regulatory requirements for the manufacture of transgenically derived biopharmaceuticals."

"Pharming is the world's leader in this revolutionary concept of producing human medicine from animal milk. We are exceedingly pleased that they have chosen to locate in Virginia and at Virginia Tech. This is a testament to the university's leadership on biotech applications," stated President Paul Torgersen.

"Knowledge and intellectual capital are key ingredients to creating the jobs of tomorrow. This announcement demonstrates the real-world economic value of university research. We like to say at Virginia Tech that 'we put knowledge to work.' We are pleased to welcome Pharming to Virginia. "

Pharming's production techniques are partially based on technologies developed at Virginia Tech and licensed to the American Red Cross. Pharming has sublicensed the technology from the Red Cross.

Virginia Tech's research has lead to discoveries enabling biopharmaceutical production using transgenic livestock. Beginning with the ground breaking work of Dr. William Velander, professor of chemical engineering and director of the university's Pharmaceutical Engineering Institute, the university has progressively increased the ability of the world's scientific community to commercialize transgenic discoveries. Dr. Velander holds several patents on the development of therapeutic proteins.

Pharming expects to employ about 88 people at its farm in Craig County and processing facility in Blacksburg. "These type of jobs are perfectly compatible with our region and with Virginia Tech. For the most part these high paying biotech jobs will require highly skilled individuals with advanced degrees," said John Phillips, Virginia Tech's economic development officer.

Phillips' office works to bring the business community and university faculty together in projects that can create jobs. In this instance, the university worked behind the scenes for several years with regional and state economic development partners.

The first stage for Pharming's herd of transgenic cows will be at a farm in Craig County. The milk extract will be reprocessed at the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center.

Transgenic pharmaceutical production is based on a technique where a human protein is micro-injected into the embryo of another mammal such as a cow or pig. The protein becomes part of the animal's genetic code. It is expressed in the animal's milk and then extracted and reprocessed into a medicine for treatment of various human diseases.

Currently, proteins and other molecules are purified from human blood or grown in cell cultures in enormous metal vats. Because of the threat of blood-borne diseases and amount of blood required to extract the proteins, the current process is very costly. Therefore, researchers are looking toward a new source of human protein pharmaceuticals.

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Scientific Contact: Virginia Tech
William Velander
(O) 540-231-7869
(H) 540-953-1914

PR Contact:
Larry Hincker
540-231-5396
hincker@vt.edu


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