New Mexico Economic Development Department report
A home-grown biosciences company working in development and manufacturing of life-saving medicines will receive state economic assistance as it expands into a new research and production center in Rio Rancho, Economic Development Cabinet Secretary Alicia J. Keyes announced Dec. 10.
Nature’s Toolbox (NTx) is working to commercialize its cell-free technology that will expedite the development and manufacturing of vaccines and pharmaceuticals using mRNA and protein technology, now being studied and used in the fight against COVID-19.
The Rio Rancho Governing Body is scheduled to hold a virtual special meeting at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday to vote on various city economic incentives for the company.
NTx is set to bring $30 million in private investment to its Rio Rancho project and hire 116 employees with an average salary of $74,000 a year. The total additional payroll associated with the expansion will be about $74.5 million over the next 10 years, with the direct economic impact over the decade estimated at $190 million.
Biosciences is one of the target industry sectors identified by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham to diversify the economy and bring higher-paying jobs to the state. It’s also one of Sandoval Economic Alliance’s target industries for the county.
NTx has committed to work with New Mexico universities to develop the state as a center of excellence in the bioscience sector by assisting with paid internships and mentorship programs. The company is already working with the STEM Boomerang program to bring New Mexico college graduates back for careers in science and technology.
The City of Rio Rancho is the fiscal agent for the project at 7701 Innovation Way, and the governing body will decide whether to support the expansion with up to $500,000 in Local Economic Development Act money.
“As NTx looked to accelerate its growth potential and stay in New Mexico, it landed right here in Rio Rancho, where we have strived to build robust infrastructure, a pro-business environment and to cultivate economic diversity and growth,” Mayor Gregg Hull said.
Matthew Geisel, the city’s economic development director, said Rio Rancho has a lot of high-tech jobs and bioscience activity.
“These are the high-tech jobs of the future,” he said of NTx. “The jobs that will keep our kids here and bring our kids home.”
Lujan Grisham said NTx is the latest example of the state government’s focus on science, technology, math and engineering paying off for New Mexico.
“It is not just creating much needed good-paying jobs now, but paving the way for a stronger and more sustainable economy for decades to come,” she said.
The New Mexico Economic Development Department has pledged $1.75 million to NTx when the company occupies and builds out a 25,000-square-foot office and manufacturing center at the Enchanted Hills Commerce Center. Another $3.25 million would be awarded to support future job growth and expansion of the facility’s footprint to handle high-volume manufacturing and emergency response.
The LEDA award will be paid out in phases as NTx reaches economic development benchmarks.
The startup has outgrown its current space in Santa Fe and is on track to relocate in early 2021.
NTx is setting a new benchmark in drug development with its bioinformatics and bio-manufacturing platforms. Because the process does not rely on cellular fermentation, it allows for rapid screenings of genetic data to identify and produce encoded targets, which expedites the characterization of novel materials and accelerates preclinical drug discovery efforts.
How it started
NTx co-founder and president Alex Koglin studied structural biology at the University of Frankfurt. He came to New Mexico to work at Los Alamos National Laboratory in 2009 and specialized in anti-bacterial drug resistance.
As part of that work, Koglin realized how out-of-date most anti-bacterial drug research had become as even small-scale manufacturing for early drug testing requires large cultures or extensive organic synthesis efforts with single-use equipment that needs sophisticated maintenance and produces massive amounts of waste.
Koglin knew the work could be completed faster and more efficiently to accelerate drug discovery and streamline production to make drugs more accessible.
“We’ve known for a long time that manufacturing of pharmaceuticals, primarily of biologicals, needs to be modernized —vaccines, antibodies, insulin and hormone and enzyme replacement therapies — it’s a massive effort and a long timeline,” Koglin said. “We truly believe we can provide the technology to replace their manufacturing.”
Koglin left LANL in 2015 to start NTx.