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)

Vivione has previously worked under a cooperative research and development agreement (CRADA) with FDA at NCTR. Company and arsenal officials believe Vivione represents the first private firm to work under both a CRADA and an ASPI with the government.

Jefferson County officials welcomed the announcement as a culmination of their work to pass a sales tax increase in 2011 to provide incentive funds to help attract a firm like Vivione. The county pitched in $73,000 through its public Economic Development Corporation (EDC) while the Arkansas Economic Development Commission kicked in $292,000.

Lou Ann Nisbitt, president and CEO of the nonprofit Economic Development Alliance (EDA) of Jefferson County, worked with Umberson for more than a year to make the move happen. She sees the Vivione move as the first drop that will eventually lead to a steady stream of companies relocating and being created in Jefferson County.

"NCTR can act like an incubator, this lab at the arsenal can act as an incubator," she said. "The sales tax was the last piece of the puzzle that gave us the tools to do this."

Nisbitt said the jobs Vivione creates -- directly and indirectly -- will be high-paying, high-tech positions.

Vivione, formerly known as Litmus Rapid-B, last year began its collaboration with NCTR to commercialize research conducted at the facility, which borders the arsenal.

Vivione CEO Kevin Kuykendall, subject of this week's Arkansas Business Executive Q&A, credited the partnership of several entities that helped make the move possible, including AEDC, EDC, EDA and the Pine Bluff Regional Chamber of Commerce.

"I've worked with companies from all over the country, and this is the first state I've ever seen where multiple organizations came together in an economic development way," he said. "Pine Bluff Arsenal is a world-class facility that will allow us to take the next step."

That next step, Kuykendall believes, is a technology that could "revolutionize the world."

"Literally, this has a chance to save lives," he said.

State and local officials are confident the relocation of Vivione to the arsenal, its planned expansion to the Bioplex and its continued collaboration with NCTR has the chance to greatly improve lives in a region that now lives in the shadow of Little Rock and northwest Arkansas in terms of economic development.

After all, it wasn't that long ago when Pine Bluff arguably held status as Arkansas' second city, where the likes of Elvis Presley and Bob Hope played the Pine Bluff Convention Center.

The road back could begin with Vivione's move to the arsenal.

"Vivione is a great anchor to start a biotechnology trend in Jefferson County," said EDC chairman George Makris. 



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