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Vaxxinova US, formerly Epitopix, plans $10 million to $20 million investment for expansion in Willmar

Vaxxinova US, formerly Epitopix, is looking to purchase county-owned land to the west of its manufacturing facility northwest of Willmar in order to invest $10 million to $20 million expanding its manufacturing capabilities, as well as building a campus for its U.S. headquarters.

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WILLMARVaxxinova US , originally called Epitopix, is looking to expand in the Willmar area by purchasing additional land surrounding its manufacturing facility northwest of Willmar.

Brian Harberts, Vaxxinova’s director of finance, reached out to the Kandiyohi County and City of Willmar Economic Development Commission to discuss purchasing some of the land which the county owns west of the manufacturing facility, EDC Executive Director Aaron Backman told the EDC’s joint operations board at a meeting Thursday.

Harberts informed Backman that Vaxxinova intends to build a campus for Vaxxinova US, which acquired Epitopix in 2018. Shortly after acquiring Epitopix, a $1.3 million grant from the state was secured in order to allow the extension of water and sewer to the manufacturing facility, located on 45th Street Northwest.

Part of the reason the state approved the grant was because Vaxxinova had talked about investing $10 million to $20 million to expand its manufacturing facility, and it is looking to do just that now that the sewer and water extension is complete, according to Backman.

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A sewer and water expansion, funded in part by a $1.3 million state grant, was recently completed to the Vaxxinova US manufacturing plant, formerly Epitopix, on 45th Street Northwest, just west of Willmar.
Shelby Lindrud / West Central Tribune file photo

Epitopix was part of the Life-Science Innovations family of businesses before being sold to Vaxxinova, according to Backman. Begun as the laboratory service division of Willmar Poultry Company, Epitopix was formed as a company in 2002, according to a history on the Vaxxinova website.

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Vaxxinova comprises production, research and development, sales and diagnostic facilities in 10 countries: Brazil , Chile, Germany , Italy , Japan , Jordan , Norway , the Netherlands, Thailand and the USA . It is part of the family-owned EW Group, according to Vaxxinova’s website.

The EW Group specializes in animal genetics, animal nutrition and animal health, operates in more than 100 countries and records consistent international growth.

“They want to have a bigger presence in the U.S.,” Backman said of Vaxxinova. “They have a number of patents that they’ve developed. They have some unique vaccines that they have put together. I think they are positioned well.”

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Vaxxinova also recently acquired Newport Laboratories in Worthington, which is “huge,” according to Backman. Newport Laboratories produces vaccines for cattle and swine and employs roughly 100 people at its Worthington location, according to a Sept. 30, 2021, news release from Vaxxinova.

“(Vaxxinova) basically has doubled in size, more than doubled,” Backman said. “But, what’s nice is they are committed to the Willmar area and their U.S. headquarters is here.”

Backman noted getting approvals for vaccine facilities is an expensive proposition that can take up to two years, whether dealing with the Food and Drug Administration or the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“You can spend millions and millions,” Backman said. “Even more so when you have like seven layers of biosecurity. So, I think that’s really promising for us.”

Sarah Swedburg, the EDC’s business development manager, has been directed to contact Kandiyohi County Administrator Larry Kleindl to gauge the county’s interest in selling the land to Vaxxinova, and Backman will continue to discuss the proposition with Harberts.

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“I just think that the whole project has been such a major success, for us and for the state,” said board member Les Heitke. “We’re just really benefiting from good planning.”

“I think we’re fortunate to have a cutting-edge bioscience-related company here that is willing to invest,” Backman said. “Literally, this company could be anywhere between here and Houston, so I think it’s fortunate that we have people and I think we can build on that.”

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Jennifer Kotila is a reporter for West Central Tribune of Willmar, Minnesota. She focuses on local government, specifically the City of Willmar, and business.

She can be reached via email at: jkotila@wctrib.com or phone at 320-214-4339.
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