Xcelience Growth a Sign of Florida Bioscience Opportunity

February 1, 2013

Margie Manning | Tampa Bay Business Journal

Just months after opening a 25,000-square-foot clinical packaging facility, Xcelience LLC already is on the hunt for more space.

The contract development and manufacturing company launched distribution operations in November and its warehouse at the new site in Westshore is at capacity, said Derek Hennecke, president and CEO.

While there are national competitors that contract with pharmaceutical firms to formulate and analyze drugs in development, as Xcelience does, the Tampa firm is one of a very few that also package and distribute the drugs, Hennecke said.

The company is a poster child for the small but rapidly growing bioscience industry in Florida. There are 219 bioscience companies in the state, according to yet-unpublished data from the University of Florida Sid Martin Biotechnology Incubator database. That’s up 60 percent in five years, said Patti Breedlove, associate director. The numbers include biotechnology and biomedical device firms, but not device companies without a bio-component.

“We are still in the early days of a revolution in understanding biotechnology and the things that can be created with those technologies to improve our world,” Breedlove said.

Paradigm shift
Florida is particularly focused on supporting growth of the bioscience industry, Breedlove said.

“The recruitment of The Scripps Research Institute and a cascade of others that followed has been a paradigm shift,” she said.

Enterprise Florida, the state’s economic development organization, includes life science among its target industries, eligible for tax incentives.

Xcelience qualified for a $135,000 Qualified Targeted Industries tax refund incentive award in 2011, after it said it would expand an existing facility near Tampa International Airportand build the new clinical packaging operation to accommodate 45 new employees. Now, with three facilities in a total of 60,000-square-feet and on the verge of hiring its 100th worker, Xcelience is applying for the initial part of the incentive, Hennecke said.

Contract research firm CoreRx also tapped state incentives and other programs to relocate from Tampa to Largo and expand its workforce. The company is on its way towards its goal of creating 55 jobs, with 40 workers on staff now.

Surviving the downturn
Keeping nimble was key for Xcelience during the economic downturn, Hennecke said. Small biotech clients had a hard time getting funding, so Xcelience focused on serving mid-size and large pharmaceuticals. Now, about half of its client base are mid-size firms, one-third are large companies and the rest are small businesses.

Xcelience also invested in the equipment needed to produce drugs for clients, including purchasing four Xcelodose machines at $500,000 each. The technology speeds pharmaceutical development work by as much as four to five months, Hennecke said.

Forty-five percent of Xcelience’s work is on cancer projects. Oncology drugs generally are on a fast track for development and have fairly high success rates in clinical trials, Hennecke said. Xcelience also does a lot of work with “orphan” drugs, or pharmaceuticals developed specifically to treat rare medical conditions.

Pre-formulation, formulation and analysis of drugs used in clinical trials is done at Xcelience’s original site, which was expanded to include 10 manufacturing rooms, double the number from June. On any given day, 12 to 15 clients are on site to observe, so those clients can take the process to larger manufacturing facilities once a drug is commercialized.

The clinical packaging site is designed for both primary packaging, such as bottle filling and blister packs, and secondary packaging, which involves labeling and assembly services. Adding the packaging and distribution service provides efficiencies that can shave another six weeks to eight weeks from the development process, Hennecke said.