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aldevron

New fermentation equipment will expand production of enzymes and proteins made by Aldevron's Madison labs for use in discovering new medical treatments.

Biotechnology company Aldevron is expanding its Madison site, more than doubling the size of its space and, potentially, its staff over the next couple of years.

Founded in 1998 and based in Fargo, North Dakota, Aldevron opened operations in Madison in 2009 with six employees.

The company makes proteins and enzymes that are sold to drug development businesses.

Aldevron currently occupies 8,000 square feet at 5602 Research Park Blvd., in University Research Park, and it will add nearly 10,000 square feet, moving into space being vacated by another biotech. Large fermentation equipment already has arrived to expand the site’s biomanufacturing capacity.

One particular enzyme that was designed and is produced in Madison, Cas9, is used in cell- and gene-editing treatments being developed through a process known as CRISPR, or Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats.

CRISPR products target specific portions of genetic code and edit the DNA in living cells, with the hope of eliminating hereditary genetic mutations that make people susceptible to certain illnesses, ranging from sickle cell anemia to cancer.

Cas9 — the CRISPR-associated protein — is “our fastest-growing product,” said Tom Foti, Aldevron vice president and general manager of the Madison branch.

“We are working with 25 of the top 33 CRISPR companies,” Foti said. The Madison site makes research-grade Cas9, while Aldevron’s version of Cas9 used in clinical trials is manufactured in Fargo.

Aldevron’s Madison labs culture bacteria, as well as mammal and insect cells, to manufacture proteins and enzymes.

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The company has 27 employees in Madison, about eight of them added in the last four months.

“We can add at least another 30 with this additional space,” Foti said. “I could see us ramping up to 100-plus people” in the next two to four years, he said.

The expansion is expected to be completed and operating by this fall.

At Aldevron headquarters in Fargo, the company is growing rapidly, with 280 employees and a new $30 million, 70,000-square-foot building that opened last year.

The company also has operations in Freiburg, Germany, with 20 employees, making antibodies.

“We constantly review each of Aldevron’s manufacturing capabilities in an effort to provide the highest quality biologics that our clients need, exactly when they need them,” co-founder and CEO Michael Chambers said. “Increasing our fermentation capabilities is a direct result of what the market is demanding.”

Aldevron is privately owned; Chambers and co-founder John Ballantyne, who serves as chief scientific officer, are majority owners.

The company declined to disclose annual revenue.

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