A company specializing in the emerging field of nanomedicine has opened in Shelton, offering the possibility that major healthcare advances could be developed in the city.
“The products being produced here could very well end diseases” such as influenza and dengue fever, U.S. Rep. Jim Himes said at this week’s opening of the NanoViricides Inc. facility on Controls Drive.
“This is truly a game changer for humankind,” Himes said.
He predicted the company’s president and chairman, Anil R. Diwan, could even win the Nobel Prize in medicine if products now in development at NanoViricides succeed.
Diwan said the firm has six medicines in the pipeline that would treat the flu, dengue, HIV, herpes (cold sores) and eye viruses.
Moving here from West Haven
With money raised from investors, NanoViricides has bought the 18,000-square-foot building at 1 Controls Drive, near Long Hill Cross Road. The company is now moving its facilities and employees there from West Haven.
The Shelton site will include manufacturing areas, labs, research-and-development space and offices. The building offers a lot of room for expansion.
It will be the only nanomedicine clinical product manufacturing facility in Connecticut.
“This is a big jump for us,” said Diwan, a bioscience researcher, inventor, patent-holder and entrepreneur.
He said the company’s scientists — who mostly hold Ph.D.s like himself — require lots of room when working on complex problems. “We need good people with special backgrounds,” Diwan said.
While the company only has 15 full-time employees at this time, Diwan said it hires many independent contractors “so our impact is much bigger.”
The upside potential also is tremendous, with Himes saying NanoViricides could have 3,000 employees in the future.
Diwan said the Shelton facility could “help foster a pharmaceutical start-up hub in Connecticut.”
‘Poised for success’
The opening included a luncheon under a tent outdoors, ribbon-cutting ceremony and brief speeches.
According to speakers, NanoViricides is involved in “ground-breaking medical technologies” and is helping to form the “backbone of the economy” in Connecticut.
Himes — who Diwan described as “our early supporter” — and other dignitaries were able to tour the building.
Diwan said he’s pleased investors have shown confidence in the firm, and he hopes the company’s research helps humans deal with diseases while also making money.
Paul Dorfman of the New York Stock Exchange, where NanoViricides was listed last year, said it was “a company poised for success.
Dorfman said he doesn’t expect NanoViricides to remain a small company forever, noting “small cap companies are about growth.”
NanoViricides was founded in 2005 and its market value has gone from $3 million to $250 million, based on its stock price.
The company seeks to develop nanomaterials that are capable of specific, multi-targeting of viruses.
Commercial potential, economic impact
Bill Purcell, Greater Valley Chamber of Commerce president, said many people “are bullish on this company.” He said it offers “true commercial potential that could have a profound impact on our economy.”
Purcell said the Valley has a long tradition of business innovation, dating to the late 1800s and the many manufacturers located in the region.
Eugene Seymour, a medical doctor who was involved in introducing rapid HIV blood tests, is CEO of NanoViricides Inc.
He recalled Diwan using a pen and napkin to share his ideas for a new company during an initial meeting at a New York City deli a decade ago.
“It’s a very exciting time,” said Seymour, highlighting Connecticut’s role in the field of anti-infectives through the years.
The founder’s background
Diwan was born in India, attended the India Institute of Technology, and later studied chemical engineering in the United States. He became associated with UConn and UMass, and worked for a biotechnologies firm.
He invented the technologies licensed to NanoViricides as well as the TheraCour (therapeutic courier) polymeric technologies.
Diwan said the reception in Shelton has “been just wonderful.” He described Shelton as a pro-business “oasis” that has been understanding of his need to have an outdoor generator so the building’s “clean room” can be free of any dirt or dust
The building at 1 Controls Drive has been vacant in recent years. It was originally used by OEM Controls and then occupied by a few other companies.