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Life sciences firm Kinex expected to stay local

Kinex Pharmaceuticals, widely considered the most promising life sciences company to come out of the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, is expected to move into the Conventus building, securing its future in Buffalo, The Buffalo News has learned.

The company, which has recently secured millions in international funding for its early-stage cancer drugs, had considered leaving, robbing the region of the benefits of its expected growth.

Kinex is a client of Albany Molecular Research, the company that the state recruited to help jump-start the region’s biotech economy – a piece of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s Buffalo Billion economic-development initiative.

Dennis M. Penman, an executive vice president of Ciminelli Real Estate Corp., which built and owns the seven-story Conventus, declined to name Kinex as the tenant but said a “medical company” would likely use AMRI research to test and develop drugs. AMRI occupies the seventh floor.

Kinex, now at 701 Ellicott St., is in the middle of a international growth spurt and is in negotiations with New York State over a package of tax incentives to support a major expansion, including manufacturing operations, in the area, The News has learned.

Later this year, Kinex would move its headquarters and more than 100 employees into the Conventus space, the first step in what could be a much larger company investment boosted by funding from the Buffalo Billion.

A top Kinex official said he could neither confirm nor deny whether the company has agreed to move into the Conventus space, saying the company has a number of options as it explores its growth plans in this country. But he did confirm that the company is in negotiations with the state.

“I’ve had a variety of conversations with New York State officials about a major aspect of our business being located in Western New York,” said Flint D. Besecker, a Kinex board member and its chief operating officer.

An Empire State Development spokesman also said that he could not comment on the Conventus property but that the state remains interested in working with Kinex on a local expansion project.

“We’re having continuing and productive discussions with them, and we look forward to providing more substantive information soon,” said Peter K. Cutler, the agency’s director of communications and special projects in Buffalo.

Kinex, based out of Hauptman-Woodward Medical Research Institute, was started 11 years ago by David G. Hangauer and his co-founders after licensing a technology from Hangauer’s chemistry lab at the University at Buffalo. The company is on a hiring and acquisition binge as it pivots from its historic focus on drug research and development into drug testing and manufacturing in both the United States and Asia. The company has about 245 employees, including about 60 in Buffalo and Newstead, where Kinex acquisition QuaDPharma is located.

Kinex has raised $200 million since the company started, much of it coming in the last two years from large institutional investors and wealthy business owners in China and elsewhere in Asia, and recently completed the largest equity raise in its history.

“We are no longer just a New York, or a Western New York, company. We are already having a global outreach,” Dr. Johnson Y.N. Lau, Kinex’s chairman and CEO, said in an interview last month after the fundraising announcement.

Kinex would be located one floor below a biotech hub built with $50 million in state money for AMRI and its partner PerkinElmer. Massachusetts-based PerkinElmer will provide and manage high-tech equipment used by AMRI in drug discovery and drug development.

AMRI, PerkinElmer and future pharmaceutical partners have promised to hire 250 employees as part of the $250 million overall project. AMRI has between five and 10 employees in the Conventus building now preparing it for use and plans to hire 75 total by the time its local operation is fully up and running. PerkinElmer will have 10 employees to start in the space shared with AMRI.

email: jepstein@buffnews.com and swatson@buffnews.com