Charlie Villanueva works as a product manager for NTx. Courtesy photo.

A biomanufacturing and bioinformatics company aiding in the development of COVID vaccines wants to hire locally for its 116-employee expansion.
“I am really grateful for the support that we see. And to really stress this, the support that we see from Rio Rancho, Sandoval County and from the state to enable us to move and to make this happen,” said Nature’s Toolbox co-founder Alexander Koglin.
With the company outgrowing its current space, NTx is moving from Santa Fe early next year, to a 25,000-square-foot space at the Enchanted Hills Commerce Center. The move is set to bring $30 million in private investment, according to a press release from the state Economic Development Department.
The company estimates employees to have an average salary of $74,000, according to the release.
NTx is developing messenger RNA, or mRNA, biomanufacturing technology to speed development, accelerate manufacturing and simplify distribution of vaccines and therapeutics, said Chief Commercial Officer Joseph Sullivan.
“The virus itself has a number of sites on the surface that could be potentially used to target a COVID-19 vaccine,” Sullivan said.
“Most of the current vaccines exclusively target the spike protein you hear researchers talk about. Unlike those early vaccines, the vaccine designed by (NTx) targets four different sites on the virus, and the strategy is sometimes used to induce a better immune response than a single site alone.”
The company has a staff of 12, with eight of them recruited through the STEM Boomerang Program, Koglin said.
Koglin helped found the company in 2015 through Santa Fe Community College’s Trades and Advanced Technology Center. Previously he was the Oppenheimer fellow at the Los Alamos National Laboratory.
The STEM Boomerang Program was founded in 2017, with the intent to connect science, technology, engineering and math professionals to companies hiring in New Mexico, according to stemboomerang.org.
NTx is using the site to hire as many New Mexico-rooted individuals as possible, he said.
“I can just really encourage everybody who is going to college for a technical background or science background or who has New Mexico roots and wants to return to reach out to the Boomerang program,” he said.
Through the site, companies in the state seeking STEM professionals view résumés.
Koglin said the company is working with the founder of the Boomerang program, Werner Washburne, to optimize the recruitment and have as many people as possible hired by the new facility’s opening.
The company will hire 116 employees over the next five years, said NTx spokeswoman Kalyn Schieffer.
Koglin said NTx is much more than a bioscience company, but a home for employees and a place for people to grow. While researching at SFCC, “we helped educate students there in courses, practical courses to actually give some background — though high level — to actually give some background in biochemistry and what that means in the context of life,” Koglin said.
He said NTx will have several interns to help students gain experience.
In classes Koglin leads, he said, there is an understanding of natural products, how enzymes work and what these behaviors mean.
“I certainly hope that if you have a chance to continue and that I can provide some background, and excite some interest in students, that they can actually go forth into STEM education,” Koglin said.
Those studying STEM can make a big impact and change to New Mexico, he said.
For more about NTx, visit ntxbio.com.

Staff writer at Rio Rancho Observer