Vaccine

A Benchmark Biolabs employee pulls a sample out of a fermenter in this 2012 file photo. For the second time in four years, the company has a new owner.

Journal Star file photo

A Bulgarian animal health company has expanded its holdings in Lincoln and says it has plans to invest in operations here and make the city one of its manufacturing and research hubs.

HuvePharma, which is based in Sofia, Bulgaria, announced last week that it has purchased St. Joseph, Missouri-based AgriLabs.

Among AgriLabs' holdings are Benchmark Biolabs and Antelope Valley Bios, which both are based in Lincoln. AgriLabs bought both companies last year.

Benchmark, which was founded in Lincoln in 1996, does contract research and development of animal vaccines, and Antelope Valley Bios is its manufacturing subsidiary.

Huvepharma, which has had a presence in Lincoln since it bought Viridius Animal Health in 2014, said the purchase of AgriLabs, and especially Benchmark Biolabs, will be very complementary to its existing business, which includes vaccines, feed additives and other animal health products, as well as its future plans.

“We are extremely excited about the acquisition of AgriLabs and what this means for the future of Huvepharma," Glen Wilkinson, president of Huvepharma USA, said in a news release. "Not only does the acquisition strengthen the existing strategic partnership between our firms, it also accelerates our growth plans in the Lincoln area.”

Huvepharma, which has its U.S. headquarters in the Atlanta suburb of Peachtree, Georgia, earlier this year filed an application with the city to build a 30,000-square-foot, two-building research and development complex on an 8.6-acre site just south of Southwest 40th and West O streets that was expected to cost nearly $5 million.

That project will now be put on the back burner, although the company will retain the site for future expansion purposes.

Wilkinson said that instead, Huvepharma will invest approximately $5.7 million in improvements to the existing Benchmark Biolabs facilities in the Westgate Industrial Park, which include a 21,000-square-foot manufacturing facility that was built in 2016.

“The investment in the facilities will occur immediately and will help us achieve our objectives for new vaccine manufacturing and development business, along with assisting our global affiliates' vaccine projects," Wilkinson said in the news release. "Before the acquisition, we may have directed this type of work to our facility in North Carolina. With the expanded capabilities made possible by this acquisition, we can accommodate current and future plans to meet growing customer needs."

Huvepharma said it will retain Benchmark Biolabs' approximately 50 employees and expects to add at least 10 new employees as its expansion progresses.

Reach the writer at 402-473-2647 or molberding@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LincolnBizBuzz.

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Business editor/reporter

Matt Olberding is a Lincoln native and University of Nebraska-Lincoln graduate who has been covering business for the Journal Star since 2005.

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