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Newsmaker of the month: New life for area’s great ’16 hope

Patrick Soon-Shiong

For decades — after a number of manufacturing plants closed in the 1980s and ’90s — the north county and Dunkirk became known as a food-processing capital. With Carriage House, Nestle Purina, Cliffstar and Fieldbrook Foods going full throttle, the plants provided employment for nearly 2,500 workers.

A chunk of that workforce left with the two ConAgra plants, previously maintained by Carriage House, in 2015. However, a recent development could make Dunkirk synonymous with health care.

In mid January, ImmunityBio announced it would be acquiring the state of the art Athenex plant in the town of Dunkirk off Route 5 near the city line. By all accounts, this could be the future that former Gov. Andrew Cuomo had in mind when the investment was first announced in 2016,

“We’ve made the decision that you and your body have the immune system that we can activate,” said Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong, above, the executive chairman and founder of ImmunityBio. “We can change the paradigm of cancer, change the paradigm of infectious diseases and really use what’s called a fusion proteins, cell therapy and vaccines to treat both cancer and COVID, HIV and TB.”

Soon-Shiong, during last week’s Chautauqua County Industrial Development Agency meeting, said this formula has been studied and researched for the last 20 years and that helped form ImmunityBio.

There are many believers in what this company brings to the table. In recent years, it has been something of a struggle to listen to investment calls by Athenex. Their products were not being approved by the Food & Drug Administration and cash flow was a definite problem.

ImmunityBio, however, appears to have the capital Athenex did not. By March its name will become an even greater presence in the north county. For both the city and town, it signals a new beginning.

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