Missouri is home to a number of international animal and healthcare companies that are making important inroads in the state.

Since 1981, Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica Inc (BIVI), a subsidiary of Germany’s Boehringer Ingelheim Corp and worldwide leader in biological research, development and manufacturing for the animal health business, has been headquartered in St Joseph.

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The company came to St Joseph largely because of a business acquisition. BIVI also benefited because the area is located in the world’s largest animal health area.

“This centrality has become a competitive advantage,” says Dr Ed Robb, R&D vice-president at BIVI.

Recently, BIVI has made another purchase, an acquisition from Pfizer, which is doubling BIVI’s number of employees and increasing its position as a leading vaccine supplier.

Consequently, the company is increasing its manufacturing capacity, expanding its local R&D facility and adding administration functions to its 32-hectare manufacturing site in St Joseph. The $120m investment will be spread over three years starting in 2009. The impetus for the expansion is to increase its manufacturing capacity to keep up with demand and to accommodate the increase in local workforce brought on by growth in sales.

“Our business is growing, in fact, doubling in sales in the US to the point where we need to make large capital investments,” says George Heidgerken, BIVI president and CEO.

Pharma supplies

Irish company Covidien, which operates in three areas (medical devices, pharmaceuticals and medical supplies), maintains six facilities in the St Louis region. These are largely focused on branded and generic pharmaceuticals used in the treatment of pain, as well as diagnostic imaging products.

Covidien company spokesman Stephen Littlejohn says that the company’s pain treatment family of products are the most dispensed opioid-based pain medications in the US. Covidien’s pharmaceuticals segment is based in Hazelwood, Missouri.

The pharmaceutical segment is one of St Louis’ oldest businesses, dating back more than 130 years under its predecessor, Mallinckrodt. “We are building on a century of experience with pain medication as we deliver new pain treatments using innovative delivery systems for proven drugs,” says Mr Littlejohn.

Among its products that have been recently approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are new drug applications for EXALGO™ (hydromorphone HCl) extended-release tablets, CII; PENNSAID® topical solution (diclofenac sodium topical solution) 1.5% w/w; and TussiCaps™ (hydrocodone polistirex and chlorpheniramine polistirex) capsules. Also approved were abbreviated new drug applications for its generic kit for the preparation of a Technetium 99m Sestamibi injection and its oral transmucosal fentanyl citrate lozenge.

“Covidien will be launching both EXALGO tablets and PENNSAID topical solution in the first half of this year,” says Mr Littlejohn.

The company’s pharmaceuticals business is currently solidifying its presence within the St Louis biotech sector. Last June, the company opened a 140-square-metre (sq m) expansion of its Webster Groves facility that included laboratory space and a pilot pharmaceuticals plant, a $30m project that includes a $16m investment in equipment.

“The plant is used for R&D on manufacturing techniques for new products,” says Mr Littlejohn.

Particularly noteworthy, Covidien is one of the world’s largest producers of Technetium 99m (Tc 99m) generators.

Tc 99m is a vital isotope used in more than 80% of nuclear medicine diagnostic and functional studies of organs and anatomical systems.

“We are currently challenged by a worldwide shortage of Tc 99m because two major research reactors used in making the isotope are down for repairs,” says Mr Littlejohn. Covidien recently received FDA and Health Canada approvals to use the Maria Research Reactor in Poland as a site to irradiate highly enriched uranium targets for Molybdenum 99 (Mo 99) production. Covidien uses the Mo 99 obtained from Poland’s reactor in the manufacture of its Tc 99m generators. The addition of this reactor to the global medical isotope supply chain increased the total to six, four of which are currently in operation.

“The Mo 99 is flown to our facility in Maryland Heights where we make the Tc 99m generators for the US, Canadian and Latin American markets,” he says. A separate facility in the Netherlands helps to supply the rest of the global market.

To accommodate increased activity, Covidien’s Maryland Heights facility is currently undergoing a 110 sq m, $72m expansion.

Mr Littlejohn says that it is the legacy of life sciences research in Missouri that gives Covidien a strong foundation from which to leverage its activities. “We have a 130-year legacy in St Louis,” he says. “Those roots are why we expanded our Webster Grove facility rather than going somewhere else.” 

Bioenergy base

Abengoa Bioenergy is one of five business units of Spanish holding company Abengoa SA, which focuses on sustainable development in the environment and energy sectors as well as the infrastructure sectors. Abengoa Bioenergy is charged with controlling assets associated with its bioenergy business such as ethanol and biodiesel as well as R&D facilities.

“What distinguishes us from our competition is our investment in new technologies that utilise new types of feed stocks,” says Abengoa Bioenergy executive vice-president Chris Standlee.

Although Abengoa Bioenergy operates facilities in the US, Brazil, Spain, France and the Netherlands, these facilities are controlled from its Chesterfield office just west of St Louis.

Abengoa Bioenergy located in Chesterfield largely due to an acquisition of High Plains Corp of Wichita, Kansas, in 2002. At the time, High Plains was the seventh largest producer of ethanol in the US.

“We moved the corporate office to St Louis because Abengoa Bioenergy executives wanted to be in a larger metropolitan city with better transportation options where it would also be easier to attract good talent and highly qualified people,” says Mr Standlee.

At the time, Abengoa Bioenergy had just built a facility across the Mississippi River from St Louis in Madison, Illinois.

“We wanted to make sure we had a showcase facility close to our corporate office,” he says. The location also gives Abengoa Bioenergy access to transportation options on the Mississippi River.

The cost of this report was underwritten by Missouri Partnership, with support from Missouri Biotechnology Association. Reporting was carried out independently by fDi