Progenesis bioengineering company bringing ideas to Huntington

Dr. Niles and Dr. Yu (both pictured right) are the founders of ProgenesisHUNTINGTON Hongwei Yu, chief science officer and co-founder of Progenesis Technologies, is in the market for new business cards after the company hosted a grand opening in its new Huntington office and lab in the Red Cross Building.

As West Virginia’s only locally owned and operated genetic engineering company, Progenesis recently changed its address from South Charleston to Huntington, a move that was celebrated during a grand opening at the new office Friday.

The company has long had ties to Huntington, as it is a spin-off of sorts from Marshall University, where Yu is a professor.

The company, which was founded in 2008, had been operating out of South Charleston until moving into the Red Cross Building and beginning renovations in January.

Most of the Progenesis work force lives in Huntington, so Friday’s grand opening had been eagerly anticipated, Yu said.

“We are very excited to get to work so close to home,” Yu said. “It will make a big difference between shuttling back and forth. We work with the Biotechnology Center at Marshall, so this will allow us to come in anytime we want to or need to and be able to do our work more efficiently.”

Progenesis is a research and development company, which is focused on demonstrating the feasibility of manufacturing its genetically-engineered bacterial alginates on an industrial scale.

Bacterial alginates absorb water quickly, which makes them useful in everything from the agricultural and food industries to the cosmetic and drug markets.

In addition to the new office space, Progenesis’ new digs include a bigger, brighter lab space for employees to do their work in, said Richard Niles, CEO of Progenesis.

“It really is going to be a wonderful place to work,” Niles said. “We are on an upward curve of developing our product and the company, and these new facilities are part of the attraction of significant revenue that will allow us to add more employees, which is what we need to continue to produce and test the product of this company.”

While the company is the only one of its kind in the state, Niles said he sees a bright future for biotechnology in Huntington.

“We are part of a new group of companies, which, locally, includes Vandalia, in biotechnology, which is a growing field. It’s one that is going to diversify the economy in Huntington,” Niles said. “Anyone who is curious about what we do is welcome to come and look at what it is we’re doing. All it takes is giving us a call setting up a time to visit.”