As competition and innovation drive the life science industry forward, Henrico’s concentration of engineering talent and healthcare research offers life science businesses a dynamic edge. The local ecosystem of healthcare providers and research & development enterprises – including the Medical College of Virginia (MCV) at VCU, Bon Secours, PPD, McKesson and more – provide a well-established network that supports knowledge exchange and technological advancement.
Local life science firms Nutriati, GENETWORx, and Cupron are cultivating a new era of innovation right here in Henrico County.
GENETWORx Swaps Books for Beakers
GENETWORx got its start as a pharmacogenomics lab, examining genetic variations that dictate patients’ drug responses. Its business is patient focused, developing therapy treatments based on individual genetics and assisting doctors with drug selection to maximize drug effectiveness and minimize adverse reactions. Their work is made possible by major advances in genetic sequencers and mapping of the human genome, combining that expanding body of knowledge with practical applications for patients.
Last year, GENETWORx partnered with Recovery Centers of American (RCA) to add drug testing to its list of available services, and the company has grown 20 percent in the last eight months and added 24 new employees. GENETWORx CEO Bill Miller calls the integration with RCA the company’s biggest achievement to date. “The laboratory is a very competitive and ever-changing field,” says Miller. “Being able to provide quality testing, along with a fast turnaround times, has allowed us to remain one of the best laboratories nationally.” According to Miller, GENETWORx is currently serving about 35 states.
The company first leased space in the Innsbrook Corporate Center, and then moved into the former Innsbrook county library branch in 2013. GENETWORx is growing, but its current space still offers plenty of room for expansion. The second floor of the building is currently vacant, and Miller hopes to stay in the space as long as possible. “Resources are abundant in Henrico, and there are more business opportunities, simply because of its location,” he explains. “It’s close to highways and recruitment opportunities … and good places to eat lunch.”
Nutriati Finds Henrico to its Taste
Nutriati, founded in 2013, develops alternative flour and protein concentrates used in health foods. Nutriati moved from the Virginia Bio+Tech Park in downtown Richmond to Gayton Crossing shopping center in Henrico late last year to be able to add baking to its chemistry lab operations.
“We really wanted to be able to bring consumer products companies, research & development, and marketing people here,” says Nutriati Co-founder and CEO Richard Kelly. The company has developed a way to make gluten-free protein and flour concentrate from chickpeas, and is now focused on commercializing these products by targeting large food companies.
A valuable benefit of being in Henrico is access to local chefs. Nutriati recently invited the owners of two locally owned restaurants – Bombolini Pasta and Sugar & Twine bakery – to test the company’s Artesa® chickpea flour. The verdict: two thumbs up!
For Cupron, Copper is a Gold Mine
In eastern Henrico, antimicrobial tech company Cupron has been harnessing the unique properties of copper to develop healthcare, consumer, industrial, and military clothing products. The tech company infuses copper compounds in select fibers and polymers to prevent the buildup of potentially harmful microbes.
In 2013, Cupron received the first and only EPA public health claim approval for specific anti-fungal protection in fiber and fabric technology, which led to a Virginia Governor’s Award for Science and Innovation – and ultimately a contract with Under Armour.
To accommodate its growth, Cupron relocated to an 11,000-square-foot warehouse in Henrico – a move that allowed the company to co-locate with its warehouse space and expand its lab facilities. “Henrico is a great location in terms of accessibility for people coming from Chesterfield, Richmond, and New Kent,” says Cupron Marketing Coordinator Sharon Oakley.
Why Biotechnology and Life Science Thrives in Henrico
Henrico County’s concentration of healthcare providers and technology firms offers startups like Nutriati and Fortune 500 companies like McKesson access to leading talent in the life sciences industry. Given Henrico’s low operating costs and ease of transportation, businesses here can afford to conduct research & development operations and expand their market from one central location.