UPDATE: Vivione Biosciences to Take Over Lab Space at Pine Bluff Arsenal

by Mark Carter  on Tuesday, May. 8, 2012 11:38 am  

Kevin Kuykendall, CEO of Vivione Biosciences, announced his firm's relocation to the Pine Bluff Arsenal on Tuesday. (Photo by Mike Pirnique)

WHITE HALL -- What Jefferson County officials believe will be the first of many high-tech companies to set up shop locally was formally introduced Tuesday at the Pine Bluff Arsenal.

Vivione Biosciences made official its move from Little Rock to the arsenal, where it is leasing about 2,000-SF of space to continue its commercialization of rapid-B technology, developed in partnership with the adjacent National Center for Toxicological Research.

NCTR is the U.S. Food & Drug Administration's primary research center, and in collaboration with Vivione its scientists have developed a diagnostic technology that can detect E. coli and other bacteria in food in a matter of minutes and hours as opposed to days or longer.

Officials think the technology has the potential to be life-changing. Vivione expects to grow quickly and eventually become the first physical client in Jefferson County's Bioplex technology park, which borders both the arsenal and NCTR. The firm employs six, with plans to hire five more high-tech positions soon and then begin hiring in increments every year.

Brian Umberson, Vivione's director of business development, was instrumental in the firm's relocation to the arsenal. He estimated building on 10 acres at the Bioplex site within a year and a half when the firm is ready to begin manufacturing product test kits. 

Umberson said Vivione worked a very "competitive rent" with the arsenal for what he called "world-class" lab space.

The arsenal, which completed the destruction of its chemical weapons stockpile in 2010, was eager to partner with private industry in areas that potentially complement its various missions, in this case its chemical and biological testing.

It is able to do so through the Arsenal Support Program Initiative, which affords U.S. military arsenals the authority and flexibility to promote the "commercial use of underutilized capacity at arsenal facilities."  

"This is a pioneering effort for us," said Larry Wright, civilian commander of the arsenal. "This is the first time we've ventured into applying that authority."

Col. Franz Amann, military commander of the post, cited the Vivione deal as a prime example that the arsenal is not going away just because its chemical stockpile did.

"This complements our capabilities in the chemical arena," he said of the Vivione move.

The deal between Vivione and the arsenal will allow the government to cover its operational costs at the lab plus potentially collaborate. The arsenal maintains multiple missions (those related to its former chemical stockpile accounted for about half of its function) including testing equipment against chemical and biological weapons for the U.S. Army.



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