VT officials spotlight foreign financing role for stem cell facility

Almost two years after first announcing plans to build a new stem cell research and manufacturing center close to the Canadian border in Vermont, a joint venture set up by South Korea's AnC Bio and a local entrepreneur says it's ready to start construction. AnC representatives and Bill Stenger, who runs the Jay Peak ski resort, gathered with Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin and Senator Patrick Leahy to announce that they would renovate and expand an old clothing factory in Newport, with plans to hire 200 workers as it pursues work on the development of replacement organs in 2013.

The deal hinges on the federal EB-5 program, which opens up U.S. residency to foreign investors who can come up with at least $500,000. News reports from the announcement touted Newport's "close proximity" to four research universities, including Dartmouth in New Hampshire, but Vermont is well off the beaten biotech path in the U.S.  

"We will raise the money over the next six months. Beginning in 2012, we will start construction here. And that will probably take us the better part of 2012 will be construction. By 2013, we should be operating and running," AnC Bio director Bill Kelly told WPTZ.

Not much has been reported about AnC Bio in U.S. biotech circles. In press materials AnC has touted its "state of the art, world class, cGMP cell culturing facility for stem cell therapy medicine, cell culture based vaccines" as well as businesses it owns and operates with the South Korean government. Earlier this year Florida's BioHeart notified the SEC that AnC Bio had never made good on its pledge to invest $4 million in the company--defaulting on the deal after only coming up with an initial $400,000--and an official with the company said that the tsunami in Japan had affected its business partners and hurt AnC's ability to invest.

- see the story from the Newport Daily News
- read the report from Vermont Public Radio