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Cellular Dynamics Plans to Relocate, Build New Manufacturing Center

Xconomy Wisconsin — 

Cellular Dynamics International intends to construct a new, 100,000-square-foot headquarters in Verona, WI, and move its operations there, according to a company proposal posted on the city’s website. Verona is a suburb of Madison, WI, where the company, known as CDI, is currently based.

The facility would be both a research and cell-manufacturing center, and would also house offices and meeting space, according to the 16-page document. CDI is a provider of induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells, which can be differentiated into any type of cell found in the human body.

“Expansion of our facility is necessary to command the field of stem cell therapy,” the company says in its proposal, which does not include an estimate of the project cost or a timeline for building and moving into the new facility.

The company’s planned move was first reported by The Verona Press earlier this month.

The new headquarters would be large enough to accommodate all of CDI’s Madison-based workers, the company says. As of late 2015, CDI had 155 employees. The vast majority of them are based in Wisconsin. It also has staff in California, which is the same state where CDI helped launch a stem cell bank in 2015.

The anticipated construction site would be adjacent to an empty plot of land. CDI could use that property it to expand its facility in the future and support additional production, according to the proposal.

CDI was launched in 2004. One of the company’s co-founders, James Thomson, helped discover iPS cells and is widely a considered a pioneer in the field of stem cells. For much of the time that CDI has been in business, the company’s focus has mainly been on producing iPS cells for use in safety and toxicity testing on new drug candidates.

However, following its sale to Fujifilm for $307 million last year—CDI operates as a wholly-owned subsidiary of its Japanese parent company—leaders at CDI aren’t ruling out the possibility of one day attempting to develop and commercialize new drugs in-house. In September, the company split into two business units. One division concentrates on life science research tools, while the other is focused on therapeutics.

Currently, CDI’s offices are at University Research Park, which is an affiliate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and is located on the city’s west side. University Research Park is home to a number of other biotechs, including Exact Sciences (NASDAQ: EXAS), Flugen, Invenra, Stemina Biomarker Discovery, and Stratatech, which in August was bought by the U.K.-based drugmaker Mallinckrodt (NYSE: MNK).

If CDI ends up making the move from Madison to Verona, it will have followed in the footsteps of Epic Systems, which develops patient records software used in hospitals and clinics. Epic, founded in 1979 by Judith Faulkner, grew steadily in Madison before deciding in 2002 to build a new corporate campus on 400 bucolic acres in Verona, according to a report in the Isthmus newspaper.