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Athenex Facility In Dunkirk On Slow Pace For Opening

The 409,000-square-foot Athenex facility is located off Route 5 in the town of Dunkirk.

Nearly five years ago, state Gov. Andrew Cuomo had the region’s hopes high in announcing the building of a new manufacturing facility for pharmaceuticals during a stop at Dunkirk High School. Today, despite the facility being built, a wait continues.

According to Mark Geise, deputy county executive and chief executive officer of the Chautauqua County Industrial Development Agency, things are going slow due to the pandemic while awaiting action from the Food and Drug Administration.

“They’ve hired approximately two dozen people between the Dunkirk location and Buffalo and they’re ramping up their testing and seeking approval for various drugs and that takes a long time for all the certifications and approvals,” Geise said. “The plant is essentially done, there’s just a couple of other little things that they need to address.”

Geise toured the facility a few months ago and was impressed by the structure. He stated that with the production of new and existing drugs that may come out of the plant the building has to meet a high number of standards.

“There’s just so many levels of approvals because they’re dealing with people’s public health and safety so they have to go through all of these approvals,” Geise added. “They get samples and then they ramp them up and get batches and then larger batches, it takes a long time before they can actually manufacture the drugs. It’s not like you build the plant and then you’re manufacturing the drugs. There’s such a high standard for the facilities themselves so even if the drugs were made somewhere else, in order to make it in that facility it has to prove itself within that building. There’s all these negative air chambers, testing labs and clean rooms; it has to be tested over and over again.”

Dunkirk Mayor Wilfred Rosas talked with representatives from Athenex just before the holidays and was told that they’re still moving forward “I believe that they’re still on target to open this year,” Rosas said. “I know COVID put them a little behind because they were ahead of schedule.”

Calls to the company were not returned. However, last week a small portion of the building had minor damage due to an electrical fire. Crews were called to the scene around 4:15 p.m. Jan. 24 and were there for about two hours.

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