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Athenex Lease Brings More Stability To Dunkirk Plant

From the beginning when the major announcement was made at Dunkirk High School in 2016 by former state Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Athenex had a credibility issue throughout Dunkirk and the north county. No matter how much residents here wanted to believe in it, many of us did not understand the model or how it was going to be successful.

At the time, Dunkirk-Fredonia was in the midst of major job losses. Its cash-cow in taxes, NRG Energy Inc., was on the verge of shuttering operations. ConAgra and Carriage House, which employed some 450 residents were leaving. These were all significant manufacturing positions in the region.

Besides, building the Athenex facility would take some time. And — many wondered out loud — if it ever happened, who would come here to fill these highly technical and important pharmaceutical jobs?

As of the coming spring, Athenex will be much less prominent. In a deal with ImmunityBio Inc., a clinical-stage immunotherapy company, there appears to be much more stability moving forward. Athenex, within the last two years, has reported serious cash-flow problem while failing to get approval from the federal Food & Drug Administration on significant products that would help in the fight against cancer.

ImmunityBio, on the other hand, has been growing — and needs more space for production. One of its major pieces in this deal is producing a COVID vaccine drug substance by the end of 2022 in the local plant.

“I think this is a good thing for the community,” Dunkirk Mayor Wilfred Rosas said last week. “Athenex will still be involved and ImmunityBio … will be moving the operations here as planned.”

There has been a huge investment by the state in that plant — and still some questions. In the end, something — either good or bad — was going to happen. This, by all accounts, appears very positive.

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