Athersys signs lease for Stow expansion

Krista S. Kano
Akron Beacon Journal

Biomedical technology firm Athersys Inc. confirmed last week its plans to expand into Stow, but the timeline and use of its new space are still being determined. 

Athersys signed a 10-year lease on a 210,000-square-foot industrial building, said Ivor Macleod, CFO of the Cleveland-based company. The facility, which could be used for offices, laboratories or manufacturing, is in Fogg Corporate Properties' Seasons Business Park near the Seasons Road and state Route 8 interchange in the city's northwest industrial-zoned quadrant. 

The expansion is possible thanks to a 2.484%, 10-year tax credit from the Ohio Tax Credit Authority, which requires the company to maintain operations in Stow for at least 13 years.

More:Biotech company expects to expand in Stow, add 400 jobs

Athersys is expected to create up 400 full-time jobs in Stow, generating $34.8 million in new annual payroll as a result of the expansion, which in turn could result in $696,000 in additional revenue for Stow, given its 2% income tax. 

More:Athersys' proposed expansion could bring big bucks to Stow

Macleod explained that the expansion, as well as the uncertainty, stems from Athersys' plans to move into manufacturing. 

Currently, Athersys is investigating the uses of stem cells from healthy bone marrow donors in ischemic strokes that are caused by a blockage and acute respiratory distress syndrome, which develops in people with COVID-19. Its Japanese partner, Healios, is expecting to be fully enrolled in studies "very soon."

Healios' clinical data is expected before the end of the year, which will inform the company's approach to manufacturing.

Company spokesperson Karen Hunady said that Athersys is also running its own late-stage clinical studies, but expects that data to come at a later date. 

"More than likely, we will come up with hybrid where we'll have external and internal manufacturing, and this is really where Stow comes in," Macleod said of the new facility. "What we needed to do was actually secure space because right now space is at a premium. Should we decide to proceed with internal manufacturing, we wanted to be able to move quickly, and moving into an existing facility is a lot quicker than breaking ground. It gives us a one- to two-year jump on things." 

Macleod said the Stow location was chosen for its proximity to Athersys headquarters and a number of universities and hospitals, as well as the fact that the "barebones facility" would not require renovations.

"And as we think to the future, across the road, there's area for potential future development should we decide to take on another facility," Macleod said. "Fogg also has ample parking, which is important for us because if we do end up using the building for manufacturing, we'd have shifts with several hundred people at a time, and we'll need the space."

The space may also be used for offices or labs, and its eventual use will determine how many jobs the company actually creates in Stow. 

"As you can imagine, the specific number of jobs created will be directly related to how we eventually utilize the facility with some processes and activities being more labor intensive than others," Hunady said. 

Macleod said that they will move to Stow "in some form" before the end of 2021, but "exactly what, we're not sure. Once we make a decision, we want to move as quickly as possible."

Reporter Krista S. Kano can be reached at 330-541-9416, or on Twitter @KristaKanoABJ.