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Research Communications

Innovation Center creates jobs, income for Athens County 


ATHENS, Ohio (June 15, 2010) — The businesses incubated by the Ohio University Innovation Center generated 152 jobs and $9.4 million in labor income in Athens County in 2009, according to a new economic impact study.

“As more people decide to create their own companies in this economy, occupancy is up and inquiries about the Innovation Center are on the rise,” said Jennifer Simon, director of the small business incubator.

The Innovation Center is currently home to 14 companies, including 12 biotechnology, information technology, transportation and energy start-ups, one venture capital firm and one patent firm, many of which were included in the economic impact study conducted by the Ohio University Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs.

Innovation Center   
Inc. magazine recently listed one client, Third Sun Solar & Wind Power Ltd., no. 32 on its list of fastest-growing energy companies in the United States. The company, owned by Geoff and Michelle Greenfield, specializes in solar and wind energy installations for commercial and residential use. The technology of another high-tech firm, Sunpower, will serve as the power source for deep space missions starting in 2014.

The Innovation Center also is in the process of building up more equipment and resources for a growing number of biotechnology firms that are calling southeastern Ohio home. In May, State Sen. Jimmy Stewart announced that the state Controlling Board had approved the release of a $50,000 Thomas Edison Program grant for the Innovation Center to purchase equipment such as high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC), HPLC photodiode array/fluorescence detector accessories and lab storage cabinets. In addition, the university will hire a part-time lab technician to help biotech entrepreneurs in the incubator.

By partnering with the Edison Biotechnology Institute and BioOhio, the Innovation Center is working to create a stronger regional drug discovery network, Simon said. The incubator currently is home to two new biotech firms, Interthyr and MetalloPharm. Interthyr, led by CEO and emeritus Ohio University faculty member Leonard Kohn, is commercializing a compound that may be effective in the treatment of pancreatic cancer and diabetes. MetalloPharm, led by CEO James Cowan and COO Ada Cowan, is developing a platform technology on catalytically active metallodrugs that could be useful in combating a variety of diseases.

Simon is optimistic that the university will attract more biotechnology and high-tech start-up firms in the next few years, given its track record and combined resources of its Innovation Center, Technology Transfer Office, Edison Biotechnology Institute, Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs and its new Center for Entrepreneurship in the College of Business.

Inquiries from potential tenants are on the rise, and the Innovation Center has made a strong effort of rebuilding its clientele since the graduation of its biggest tenant, Diagnostic Hybrids, Inc., in 2008. The company, which employs about 220 people, established its own facility in Athens and recently was purchased by the Quidel Corporation for $130 million.

“We’ve been able to rebuild fairly rapidly over the last year, and the university is leveraging more resources from state agencies for these companies to succeed,” Simon said.

The Innovation Center, located at 344 W. State Street, offers office and laboratory space and equipment, training and business coaching, networking and connections to funding resources. Founded in 1983, it was the first university-based incubator in the state of Ohio and is one of the oldest in the nation.

The center, which is part of the Ohio University’s Vice President for Research division, is a member of the State of Ohio Edison Incubator Program.

Contacts: Jennifer Simon, (740) 593-1803, simonj@ohio.edu; Andrea Gibson, (740) 597-2166, gibsona@ohio.edu.