According to information released simultaneously by both the seller and the buyer’s representatives, Tonix Pharmaceuticals Holding Corporation, a New Jersey based clinical-stage biopharmaceutical development and manufacturing company, has purchased 44 acres north of Hamilton within the newly established Targeted Economic Development District (TEDD) with the intent of establishing a vaccine production facility. The property, purchased from Illona Bessenyey and her husband Peter Van Tuyn, has been part of the Bitter Root Stock Farm, originally owned by Marcus Daly.
Bessenyey, part of the fifth-generation family ranch, is quoted saying, “Just like Marcus Daly did in the early days of Hamilton and the Bitter Root Stock Farm, the current generation of owners has always tried to keep the big picture in mind when making our decisions. We have worked for many years exploring and laying the foundation for a development just like this; one that combines a clean business advancing Hamilton’s bioscience strength with the opportunity for well-paying local jobs.” She thanked the Ravalli County Economic Development Authority and their executive director Julie Foster for their vision and work over the many years it has taken to get to this point.
“As the sellers of the specific ranch property that was sold, my husband and I would also like to thank our counsel, Parson’s Ross Keogh, who worked tirelessly and creatively, through a pandemic, to bring this deal to a close. We look forward to having Tonix as a new neighbor to the Bitter Root Stock Farm,” said Bessenyey.
Tonix also recently announced the opening of a new Advanced Development Center in Massachusetts, a research and development facility which will work in tandem with the planned manufacturing facility in Hamilton. Depending on several factors, groundbreaking on the Hamilton facility could come as early as the first quarter of 2022.
“We’re excited to be part of Montana’s growing bioscience community,” said Seth Lederman,
M.D., the co-founder and chief executive officer of Tonix. “The COVID-19 pandemic exposed
weaknesses in domestic vaccine development and manufacturing capabilities. Tonix seeks to be
a leader in the re-domestication of American vaccine development and production. We believe it
is critical to bring these capabilities and high-tech jobs back to the U.S. both to finish the fight
against the COVID-19 pandemic and to prepare for potential future pandemics.”
Lederman said that his company believes it is likely COVID-19 will become endemic. That means humans will have to co-exist with COVID-19 and it will be a constant threat that can only be managed by maintaining a vaccinated population. To manage COVID-19 in the future, he said a next generation COVID-19 vaccine is needed that can be part of the standard childhood immunizations, like MMR for mumps, measles and rubella. He said it is expected that such a vaccine will be a live-virus vaccine, because of their potential to provide durable protection and block transmission.
Tonix is developing a potential COVID-19 vaccine, TNX-1800 (modified horsepox virus), for which it expects efficacy animal data in the first quarter of 2021.
Mayor Dominic Farrenkopf and the City of Hamilton have also been crucial players in the deal as the city moves to provide water and sewer to the TEDD where the manufacturing plant will be located.
Matt Mellott, lead broker with Sterling CRE Advisors, said, “As we saw with this deal, collaboration is the key to robust economic opportunity in Montana. Ravalli County officials, the Ravalli County Economic Development Authority and the local seller all played critical roles in moving this project forward.”
Julie Foster, Executive Director of the Ravalli County Economic Development Authority, said she was overjoyed at the development and called it “one big community success story.” Foster said that RCEDA has been working for over a decade to establish an economic development district that could attract good paying manufacturing jobs to valley residents. She said the key to attracting that kind of business is slow and tedious work which requires a lot of preparation before producing any results. She said her board members and the Ravalli County Commissioners could have given up on the efforts as they plugged along without any real results over the years.
“But the real key to this kind of development is being ready when the opportunity arrives,” said Foster. She said in this case the whole community was ready to welcome and help facilitate this kind of development.