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ImmunityBio jobs still two years away

OBSERVER Photo by M.J. Stafford Vince DeJoy, Dunkirk’s Planning and development director, said ImmunityBio probably won’t fully use its Dunkirk plant for “a couple more years.”

ImmunityBio Inc. probably won’t ramp up hiring at its Dunkirk plant for a couple years, the city’s planning and development director said last week.

Vince DeJoy gave a mostly upbeat update about the biotechnology firm’s efforts to produce a new cancer drug at the facility it’s leasing from Athenex. However, he made clear that it won’t happen quickly.

DeJoy was speaking at a meeting of the Dunkirk Common Council’s Economic Development Committee.

“It’ll probably be a couple more years before it’s geared up,” said DeJoy, who took a tour of the facility last week. He said ImmunityBio needs to install “high-level clean rooms.”

However, he said one key component is there: some $25 million worth of specialized equipment from Italy was recently delivered.

The ImmunityBio facility is located off Route 5 in the town of Dunkirk.

“There will be jobs for people that are here. They will be good jobs, they will be high-paying jobs,” DeJoy said.

He added that ImmunityBio representatives told him anyone with a high school degree will be able to operate the equipment at the Dunkirk plant, though supervisory staff will be college-educated.

In May, ImmunityBio announced Dunkirk’s state-of-the-art facility was expected to play a significant role in the production of a new cancer-fighting drug, Anktiva, developed by the company.

“When we began the development of Anktiva and enlisted our contract manufacturer, we believed that the manufacture of a biologic as complicated as Anktiva was best served by having multiple sites of manufacturing, including in-house capacity and external partners,” said Patrick Soon-Shiong, M.D., Executive Chairman and Global Chief Scientific and Medical Officer at ImmunityBio in the announcement.

No indication was offered as to how many jobs will be added to the local plant at this time.

ImmunityBio completed its acquisition of the leasehold interest in the pharmaceutical manufacturing space in Dunkirk from global pharmaceutical company Athenex, Inc in February 2022. The production location includes clean rooms for upstream and downstream manufacturing activities, as well as fill and finish and large-scale lyophilization capabilities.

In October 2022, ImmunityBio announced layoffs of staff while noting interior work at the location off Route 5 needed to be upgraded.

New York state provided $200 million for the Dunkirk plant in 2016, amid a great deal of fanfare. Promises for hundreds of jobs at the site were never met, as Athenex faced severe and ultimately unsolvable financial difficulties.

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