Durham drug maker Argos to hire 236 with $9.5M incentive package

Durham drug maker Argos Therapeutics said Friday it will receive $9.5 million in state and local incentives to hire 236 people and build a new manufacturing facility.

As part of the expansion, Argos will move its headquarters from northern Durham to T.W. Alexander Drive, near Research Triangle Park. The 15-year-old company, which has no drugs on the market, already employs more than 100 people locally; the new jobs will pay an average salary of $90,725.

The planned facility, an automated bio-manufacturing plant and new headquarters, will increase Argos’ corporate footprint by fivefold, said CEO Jeff Abbey.

Argos plans to occupy its planned 97,500 square-foot manufacturing plant in 2016. The company expects a federal regulatory decision on its cancer treatment in 2017.

The financial incentive package is contingent on keeping current positions and adding the new jobs by 2018.

Anchoring the incentive package is $4.5 million from the state’s Job Development Investment Grant program. The package also includes a $1.8 million sales tax exemption on equipment, and a $1.85 million grant from the city and county of Durham.

Argos grossed $45 million in February in a public stock offering, and secured a $25 million loan this week.

The company’s experimental cancer treatment is in Phase III clinical trials in North America, Europe and Israel, Abbey said. The treatment uses a patient’s own tumor tissue and blood cells to fight off cancers.

Argos is seeking U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval to commercialize its product for kidney cancer. Argos will seek separate approvals to use its immunotherapy for breast, lung, pancreatic and other cancers.

“The beauty of what we’re doing is that the exact same thing is applicable to any other cancer,” Abbey said.

Abbey said that in previous tests, the Argos treatment extended the lifespans of patients with advanced stage 4 kidney cancer from 15 months to 30 months, with several patients living longer than 5 years.

Argos was spun off from scientific research on RNA molecules conducted at Duke University.