Drugmaker likes looks of Tampa

The city is the favorite over St. Louis to land a vaccine factory that could initially employ about 200 people.

Published May 20, 2006

Tampa is the favorite to land a $30-million anticancer vaccine factory that would initially hire a couple of hundred people.

Dr. Frank O'Donnell, chief executive of Accentia Biopharmaceuticals Inc., said the combined recruiting efforts of the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce and Gov. Jeb Bush has placed Tampa ahead of nearest rival St. Louis.

''The situation for Tampa is looking guardedly optimistic,'' O'Donnell told the St. Petersburg Times on Friday.

O'Donnell and other investors created Accentia in 2002 when they bought out Tampa mail-order pharmacy Accent RX. The company is completing clinical trials for BiovaxID, awaiting possible approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The drug is used to treat non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

If approved, Accentia could start building a 180,000-square-foot plant early next year. Employment would begin at a "couple hundred," O'Donnell said, and could grow if the drug succeeds on the market.

Accentia's ambitions match those of Tampa area leaders. They have aggressively targeted biotechnology, an industry some studies suggest will create hundreds of thousands of jobs in the next decade.

St. Louis has competed with Tampa. But O'Donnell said the Tampa area's "get up and go'' attitude toward economic incentives gives it an edge.

In March, Hillsborough County commissioners unanimously supported reserving $5-million to recruit bioscience firms. Combined with money from the state, companies such as Accentia can get at least $2,500 for each job they create.

O'Donnell expects to receive an incentives proposal from the Tampa chamber in the next several weeks. St. Louis isn't as far in the process.

"I think Tampa's certainly been the more aggressive of the two locales," he said.