County raises incentives offer to drug maker

Jul. 28, 2014 @ 09:39 PM

County Commissioners have raised their business-incentive offer to a Durham-based pharmaceutical company that’s developing new treatments for kidney cancer, HIV and lupus.

The 5-0 vote on Monday pledged $925,000 to Argos Therapeutics, $325,000 more than the commissioners initially agreed to offer the company.
The extra money is coming because Argos is willing to invest $10.3 million more in a combined new headquarters, research and development lab and manufacturing plant. The county’s initial $600,000 offer was tied to a $47.3 million investment by Argos.
“They’re putting in more money and are wanting us to up the ante,” Commissioner Fred Foster said, summarizing the essentials of the new deal.
Greater Durham Chamber of Commerce Vice President Ted Conner said a parallel request for an incentives increase will reach the City Council soon.
“It’s an equal partnership,” Conner said, noting that the city and county were splitting the costs of the deal 50-50 and had each pledged $600,000 when the initial proposal surfaced over the winter.
Deputy County Manager Marqueta Welton voiced confidence Monday that the increased offer will produce into a decision by Argos to remain in Durham. The company is currently based in north Durham near Duke Regional Hospital.
Welton added that officials are also upping the offer because of “the competition,” namely four other North Carolina counties, a community in Florida and another in Canada that have also been in the running.
The deal will retain for Durham 100 existing jobs and bring 236 new ones, she added.
Argos is one of the companies that’s trying to tailor its drugs to the genetic profile of the tumors or diseases they’re supposed to fight.
It’s gearing up to produce them on the assumption a clinical trial of one cancer drug involving 100 patients is successful. The company’s also using the proceeds of a $39.3 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to pay for intermediate trials of an HIV drug.