Phamaceutical testing company to expand to Columbia in February

Monday, November 25, 2013 | 9:26 p.m. CST

COLUMBIA — Columbia will become home to a new pharmaceutical testing company starting in February. Bio Pharma Services, Inc., a Toronto-based company, plans to open a 48-bed facility in northeast Columbia.

The company will convert the existing space at 300 Portland St., formerly the Thompson Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders, into a 9,000-square-foot testing center. The space requirements for a clinical trial facility are actually quite similar to the Thompson Center, so construction will be minimal, Renzo DiCarlo, Bio Pharma's CEO, said at a Regional Economic Development, Inc. news conference Monday evening.

DiCarlo has a long history with the medical community in Columbia that dates back to 1998 when he worked with the MU nuclear reactor team to develop a liver cancer treatment.  He said Columbia is a great community for medical research.

He estimated a dozen full-time positions and several part-time and contract positions will be created in 2014. He said there would be a significant need for part-time physician and nursing oversight as well.

"If things go well — and we are planning on that — we could see the facility be as large as 40 to 50 full-time staff in the next three years," he said.

According to DiCarlo, the testing facility will run:

  • Bioequivalence studies to compare generic brands to name brands.
  • Phase I studies (the first testing phase in humans) to evaluate whether a drug does what it's supposed to do. This phase introduces a very low dose of the drug and slowly escalates it over time to determine how well the drug works in both patients and volunteers.
  • Phase IIa studies to determine the effects of the drug on patients.

All of the tests are small studies, DiCarlo said. Later phases like Phase II and III look at the effects of the drugs on larger populations.

Bio Pharma plans to recruit volunteers and patients from the Columbia area to participate in studies. Local doctors will also refer patients for testing, DiCarlo said.

"I think it's going to be a great fit," said Mayor Bob McDavid at the news conference. "This is just the type of knowledge-based industry that Columbia really excels in."

Joe Gorman, the owner of the space at 300 Portland St., which also houses his company, Paternity Testing Corp., said at the conference that he appreciated the opportunity to develop medical and research activities within his own building.

"We're just very glad they're here," he said.

Supervising editor is Katherine Reed.

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