News and Events

July 8, 2017

Upper Bucks life sciences company bets on pharma

by Anthony Salamone -Contact Reporter, The Morning Call

One day in the late 1970s, Gregory Krug and some fellow student researchers were drawing blood from sheep at a Lancaster County farm, when a farmer made an offhand observation that inadvertently led to the founding of a company.

“We’re bleeding sheep out in Lancaster County,” said Krug, then an undergrad at Delaware Valley College near Doylestown. “We have a pitchfork in the ground with a lamp hanging because we didn’t have any electricity. And the farmer comes in. He’s looking … he strokes his beard and says, ‘You know what? You guys aren’t vampires; you’re lampires.’”

In that moment, life sciences company Lampire Biological Laboratories Inc. had found its name.

The company Krug helped found 40 years ago has since grown into a player in the life sciences field, with 130 employees spread out among six locations, including its headquarters in Bedminster Township, upper Bucks County; a laboratory in Coopersburg, and a 400-acre farm and laboratory in Everett, Bedford County. Lampire also recently acquired a Ben Franklin TechVentures startup based at Lehigh University, H.B. Custom Media Inc., in a deal that wil enhance the company's ability to sell reagents used in stem cell therapy.

Lampire sells human and animal blood antibodies and related products, including serum and plasma, that are used in diagnostic testing by some of the world's leading pharmaceutical and life science companies, Krug said. The privately held Lampire does not disclose financial information.

“What I tell people is we are to the life science industry what the coal mine is to the steel industry,” said Krug, 63.

And life sciences has become a big business in the Lehigh Valley and the state. Pennsylvania is a leader in the life science industry, according to the trade group Life Sciences Pennsylvania. Its most recent data, from 2014, says the industry contributes 77,000 employees, about 2,300 businesses and about $7 billion in local wages in Pennsylvania.

A study for Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corp. has identified life science research and manufacturing as one of four main industry-target sectors, based on such regional characteristics as proximity to markets and a highly skilled workforce.

Working with animals

Lampire began herding donkeys on a farm in Bedford County around 1989, after a Quakertown veterinarian suggested Krug move his menagerie of animals to a more rural area to avoid encroaching on development of farms in and around the Lehigh Valley.

The company has not looked back. Last year, the state Department of Community and Economic Development awarded Lampire a $199,500, low-interest loan to build a sheep barn that will enable the company to make large quantities of sheep “polyclonal antiserum” used in diabetes testing.

The company uses everything from donkeys, cows and pigs to alligators, hamsters and rats to develop its serums. The company draws blood from the animals, but deals with them humanely and does not prematurely euthanize them, Krug said.

Krug said many of the large farm animals come from sources where they might have been euthanized, but instead “live out their lives” at Lampire facilities.

The Bedminster Township headquarters, which is off Route 611, features lab clean rooms. For mice and other animals, there’s a specialized filtered-air system.

Small live animal supervisor Amanda Machin of Coopersburg recently demonstrated a process known as “harem breeding,” using mice for research inside a inside a small plastic box.

“There’s two females to one male, and they live as a family,” said Machin, who said the rodents tend to live about two or three years.

“We spoil them so they do live a bit longer,” she said.

While Krug said he has considered consolidating operations in Bedford County, he also said it’s not likely to happen.

“The locations here and in Everett have very distinct features and benefits,” said Lee Kandt, Lampire’s general manager. “There are different things that make it attractive for us to keep both locations.”

Promoting science

Barbara Bielska, biotechnology professor at Northampton Community College, said Krug and Lampire employees have helped with workshops at the college by promoting science, and made several “valuable suggestions” for the college’s biotechnology curriculum.

“This is nice company deeply rooted in the local community,” said Bielska, also noting that Lampire offers NCC students internships. For Krug, the internships can foster another generation of scientists or other technical professionals.

“This is my first lab experience outside of school labs,” said Evan Becker, a junior pre-med major at West Chester University who is interning with Lampire. “It’s a little overwhelming in that I didn’t know there were so many regulations and procedures.”

Wayne Barz, entrepreneurial services manager at Ben Franklin Technology Partners, also said Krug has referred several diagnostic or drug-development start-ups to the local Ben Franklin, which is a key mission of the Lehigh University-based business incubator.

“He’s a go-to guy whenever we have anybody related to the work he does,” Barz said.

Sal Salamone, CEO of Saladax Biomedical Inc., a Ben Franklin-based company and Lampire customer, agrees.

“He’s very customer focused; he really caters to his clients,” Salamone said of Krug. “He really finds out their needs and bends over backwards to treat clients well and respond to their needs,”
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Headquarters: 5185 Applebutter Road, off Route 611, Bedminster Township, Bucks County
Locations: Six in Pennsylvania, including a 40-acre farm/research facility in Ottsville, Bucks County; a 400-acre farm/research facility in Everett, Bedford County; and a Coopersburg laboratory
Employees: About 130
What it makes: Raw materials such as serums and antibodies, drawn from animals, that are used by the diagnostic, biotechnological and pharmaceutical industries. Its work is also used in academic, business, military and environmental applications
Animal species: Include alligator, cows, chickens, donkeys, emus, geese, goats, guinea pigs, hamsters, horses, llamas, mice, rabbits, rats, rooster, sheep, and others.
Quotable: “What I tell people is we are to the life science industry what the coal mine is to the steel industry.” President Gregory Krug

Copyright © 2017, Lehigh Valley Business Cycle

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