Atlantic BioPharmaceutical Coming to Chico

From left: President Manuel A. Esteban;
Dean Roger Lederer; Al Bolt;
Bob Grant, COO of ABI;
Mayor Rick Keene; Provost Scott G. McNall;
Dr. Robert Murgita, ABI;
Michael Abruzzo, chair of Biological Sciences.
With no less than a treatment for breast cancer and rheumatoid arthritis as their mission, Atlantic BioPharmaceuticals, Inc. (ABI), a start-up biotech company, will be relocating in Chico. Currently based at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, the company will be doing basic research in facilities in Holt Hall for two years before relocating permanently off campus. President Manuel A. Esteban, Roger Lederer, dean of Natural Sciences, and Michael Abruzzo, Biology, played a primary role in recruiting the company to campus.

ABI is a biotechnology company developing treatments for autoimmune diseases and breast and prostrate cancers based upon technology and patents licensed to McGill and developed by Dr. Robert Murgita, chief scientific officer for ABI.

Dr. Murgita has spent twenty years creating a recombinant DNA process to produce alphafetoprotein, a substance that occurs naturally in fetuses. "It has long been known," says Dr. Murgita, "that pregnant women with rheumatoid arthritis have a remission of symptoms and that pregnancy is a factor that reduces the risk for the development of breast cancer." Through Dr. Murgitaís successful work, alphafetoprotein can be produced in very small amounts. The next scientific challenge is to produce it in much larger quantities so that it can be made available to medicine.

A press conference with the principles of ABI, Esteban, Lederer, Abruzzo, and Chicoís Mayor Rick Keene was held on campus on August 20. Dr. Murgita and Bob Grant, Chief Operating Officer of ABI, both spoke enthusiastically about the move to Chico and the University. Grant said, "The cooperation of the University and the outreach from the City have been unbelievable. We are all excited about establishing in Chico where the quality of life for our employees and ourselves will obviously be very high."

The opportunity for Chicoís biotech students to work directly for ABI is one of the huge benefits of ABIís relocation. "Many of our students now go to biotech companies in the Bay Area," said Lederer. "Now they will have the experience of actual research and, for some, the opportunity to be hired directly by ABI."

President Esteban lauded the venture for assisting the University in meeting priority #4 of the Strategic Plan, which is "to reaffirm our anchor position in the region." ABI will provide jobs for the community as well as being very good for the University. "It is an example," said Esteban, "of the wonderful results when the city, the community, and the University work together."

Written by KM

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