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Biotech company wins grant of $150,000; United Biochemicals plans major upgrades

Empire State Development awarded a $150,000 capital grant to an area biochemical firm to aid in the company's sweeping upgrades and renovation. The nearly $1 million project will create 22 new full-time jobs and save 31 existing high-paying positions.

United Biochemicals, a fast-growing Niagara County manufacturer, is buying up-to-date equipment and machinery, building separate processing rooms and making other alterations to its Sanborn facility to increase productivity and make the company more viable and competitive.

The company, which has four people with doctorates on staff, will almost double its work force by adding a wide range of positions -- from engineers to marketing experts to secretaries.

The project will span three years. The $150,000 grant from the Empire State Development will be used to reimburse a portion of project's bill.

"We are so glad they approved our application," said Fayyaz Hussain, president of United Biochemicals. "We would not have been able to do this project without their help."

United Biochemicals manufactures and supplies biological buffers and specialty biochemical products. Its products are used by life science companies to grow cells and tissue. It's a direct supplier of biochemicals to companies around the country and the globe.

But United Biochemicals is invaluable to the region's emerging life science industry, and the company's renovation and expansion will also benefit the industry, Hussain said.

With its location and manufacturing capabilities, Hussain said the company is able to supply area research and biotechnology companies with low-cost products.

"We are a smaller company with lower overhead, so our prices are more affordable," he said. "With the expansion and renovations, we want to make sure we beat our competition and help Western New York businesses, especially."

Empire State Development took the company's impact on local life science companies into consideration upon awarding the grant.

"Life sciences is a target industry in New York State and by providing critical assistance to growing small business in this sector, we can ensure that they have a bright future here in Western New York," Commissioner Kenneth Adams, Empire State Development's CEO and president, said in a news release. "Empire State Development's grant will not only help United Biochemicals remain in Sanborn, but will allow it to expand productivity and better compete in both new and existing markets."

Hussain, a chemist who emigrated to the area from Pakistan, worked for Life Technologies in Grand Island for 15 years before he decided to start his own business. He founded American Biorganics in 1986 and sold that biotech firm in 1995.

United Biochemicals was founded in 1996, and Hussain became the majority stakeholder in 2000. The company began in a small building with three employees and three local clients in Niagara Falls. Today it's a 43,000-square-foot operation with almost 80 customers and will have 53 employees when the expansion is completed.

"In these economic times, we're happy to be growing and hiring more people," Hussain said.

e-mail: esapong@buffnews.com