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Ribomed Owner Says Lost Lab Space in Phoenix Prompting Move to San Diego

8/23/2007 6:42:00 AM

Angela Gonzales (The Business Journal) -- Now that Michelle Hanna is losing her lab space at Seventh and Van Buren streets in downtown Phoenix, she has decided to move her biotech company to San Diego.

She sold her Ribomed Biotechnologies Inc. headquarters to The Plaza Cos., which will demolish the aging structure to build a biomedical plaza.

Sharon Harper, president and chief executive of The Plaza Cos., had offered to lease space to Ribomed when the project was finished, but Hanna said she has nowhere to go while the project is being built over the next two years.

Hanna said, "In no way are Sharon Harper and her group responsible for this move."

Harper said she is disappointed Hanna is leaving. "She is such a terrific scientist and great person. She wasn't able to find interim space. We need to get lab space developed in our region."

Harper said her offer still stands for Ribomed to lease space when the new project opens.

Over the past seven years, Hanna has poured her heart and soul into renovating the building and creating lab space. With the help of her mother, Arlene Knight Kilgore, Hanna formed the Phoenix Biotechnology Accelerator LLC, as a home for startup biotech companies needing expensive lab equipment. She even had to sell her house to come up with enough money to finish the project.

In an e-mail sent to business associates, Hanna said she will have an easier time finding affordable lab space close to other biotech companies in San Diego. Plus, she said, she'll have access to a strong work force and venture capital firms focused on biotech.

While she could not be reached for further comment, Hanna told her colleagues in an e-mail that it breaks her heart to leave family and friends.

"There are great things happening here in Phoenix," she said in her e-mail, pointing to the Translational Genomics Research Institute, Science Foundation Arizona, Arizona State University's Biodesign Institute as well as the joint medical school between ASU and the University of Arizona.

"As these entities grow, I'm sure that the necessary resources for the growth of the for-profit part of the bioindustry will follow, thanks to the work of groups like the Tech Council," she said in her e-mail. "It has been a pleasure working with all of you."

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