Vaccine Lab Sale Wins St. ApprovalGRETA GUEST , Associated Press
Jul. 8, 1998 6:03 AM ET
LANSING, Mich. (AP) _ The sale of the nation's only licensed maker of anthrax and rabies vaccine passed its final state hurdle, with approval of a deal to sell the state-owned laboratory to a company led by a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
A state board voted unanimously Tuesday to allow the sale to newly formed BioPort Inc., which has bid $25 million to buy the Michigan Biologic Products Institute. Payment would be made in a combination of cash, secured notes, product donations and royalties.
Among those attending the State Administrative Board's meeting was retired Adm. William J. Crowe Jr., former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the Reagan administration and director of Intervac L.L.C., a pharmaceutical investment firm based in Maryland.
The company almost certainly stands to benefit from President Clinton's expansion of the Pentagon's anthrax vaccination program to include all 2.4 million U.S. military personnel.
Once the sale is closed, BioPort plans to negotiate with the Pentagon to make enough vaccine for the inoculations at an estimated cost of $130 million, including funds to renovate the aging lab.
``We've got a lot of hard work ahead of us,'' said Crowe. ``The heart and soul of this business is the U.S. government. That is our No. 1 priority.''
Crowe, 73, was the U.S. ambassador to Britain from 1994 to 1997 and served as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 1985 to 1989.
The board approval was BioPort's last state hurdle. Michigan would be responsible for any contamination found during its environmental study of the 60-acre Lansing site. Once that process is finished, the sale contracts could be completed.
The lab has drawn international attention as the only source of anthrax vaccine in the nation. It opened in 1926 and is the last state-owned vaccine lab in the United States.
Gov. John Engler said he was pleased the aging lab that for years has been losing millions of dollars would go into private hands, where it is expected to prosper.
Crowe's Intervac is the major investor in BioPort, with 58 percent. Other partners are Neogen Corp., a Lansing-based food safety research and development company, with 10 percent ownership, and the lab's managers led by Director Robert Myers, who have a 32 percent stake, according to BioPort documents.
The offer includes $3.25 million in cash at closing, $12.1 million in secured notes, $4.6 million in rabies vaccine and immune globulin donations to the state and $5 million in royalties over five years.
BioPort plans to keep the lab in Lansing and its 170 employees.