[caption id="attachment_221821" align="aligncenter" width="1200"] Incyte CEO Herve Hoppenot addresses the crowd at the ribbon cutting for the company's new Wilmington lab on Monday. | DBT PHOTO BY JACOB OWENS[/caption]
WILMINGTON – After many years of growing widely across the greater Wilmington area, the drugmaker Incyte Corp. is bringing 300 of its employees to its headquarters campus in Alapocas with the opening of a new six-story, research-and-development facility.The roughly 200,000-square-foot building known as 1709 – a prime number that isn’t divisible in a nod to the company’s team-building culture and it's work to stop cancer, which divides to grow – features dozens of high-tech labs across four floors along with plenty of office space for up to 440 employees. It was completed in about two years, finishing on schedule and under budget, according to officials, declining to detail a project cost. Employees began occupying the space just in recent weeks as they left 50,000 square feet of leased labs at the DuPont Experimental Station or other spaces on the Alapocas campus, officials said.
[caption id="attachment_221820" align="alignleft" width="300"] The new 1709 building on Incyte's campus features four floors of labs and six floors of offices, capable of hosting 440 employees. | DBT PHOTO BY JACOB OWENS[/caption]
It’s the second major expansion at Incyte’s Augustine Cut-Off headquarters since it opened its 154,000-square-foot, glass-and-grass-covered building in 2017.It’s all meant to try to bring as much of the Incyte team together under one roof as possible, and Incyte CEO Hervé Hoppenot hopes to complete the task one day soon – some U.S. employees still work out of leased space at the Rollins Building north of Wilmington or in Chadds Ford, Pa. The public company has about 2,000 employees globally, with about half based in the Delaware area.“We believe that most learning is unexpected,” the chief executive told Delaware Business Times. “We saw that with remote work during the COVID pandemic; people are losing the opportunity to learn in ways that are not expected by the agenda of the meeting.”“It's a very unprecise system, but I know that without it, we will lose a lot of what makes this company so on the edge of science,” he added.While some of the state’s larger employers are exploring increasingly flexible work weeks or fully remote roles, Hoppenot said he believed the vast majority of Incyte’s jobs would report daily from Monday to Friday. That’s in part due to the lab-oriented work at the company and its emphasis on team-building and innovation.
[caption id="attachment_221824" align="alignright" width="300"] The Wilmington Friends School Lower Campus, seen here, will likely be the next site of Incyte expansion. | DBT PHOTO BY JACOB OWENS[/caption]
With some teams still to be relocated to the main campus, eyes will eventually turn toward the neighboring 20-acre Wilmington Friends School Lower Campus, which Incyte purchased for $50 million in 2019. Nothing could occur on that site until the private school relocates to a new building on its main campus, however, and Hoppenot said that wasn't likely to occur for several more years.Originally founded in California in the 1990s as a genomics researcher, Incyte is located in Wilmington today due primarily to the foresight of then-CEO Paul Friedman and then-Gov. Tom Carper. Friedman, a former DuPont researcher, recognized that hundreds of scientists would become available in the region following the 2001 sale of DuPont Pharmaceuticals to Bristol-Myers Squibb.Friedman had overseen DuPont Pharmaceutical’s joint venture with Merck that didn’t pan out, but he remained committed to the idea of building a company in Delaware, Carper recalled. The chief executive reached out to the governor to help them find space in 2003 to establish a new Incyte focused on drug-discovery in Delaware – together they did, convincing Friedman’s former employer DuPont to lease space to Incyte at the Experimental Station and later the Stine-Haskell Research Center.“I’m a big believer in what Albert Einstein once said, ‘In adversity lies opportunity,’” Carper told DBT. “The key is just not giving up … Paul Friedman and all the people who were surrounding him all those years ago never did, and today we’re celebrating their tenacity.”Much of the success of Incyte is tied to Jakafi, its blockbuster small-molecule drug that is used in the treatment of rare bone marrow cancer, blood diseases and in certain bone marrow donations. Last year, sales and royalties from Jakafi totaled more than $2.4 billion, or more than 80% of the company’s revenues.
[caption id="attachment_221823" align="alignright" width="300"] Incyte CEO Herve Hoppenot said that clinical advancements had led the company to investigate dermatological drugs. | DBT PHOTO BY JACOB OWENS[/caption]
Incyte has increasingly begun targeting non-cancer diseases that might be helped by its small molecule drugs, including the skin pigmentation disease vitiligo and the hair loss condition alopecia. Hoppenot said those uses have been explored as a natural extension of Incyte’s work into cancers.“What we realized is that the research we are doing is the new way of thinking about cancer with immunotherapy. So instead of shooting at cancer, we are basically helping patients strengthen their immune system. All of that research on biology can be used outside of cancer for autoimmune diseases too,” he said.Incyte never intended to branch into dermatological drugs, but its biologists highlighted the efficacy potential of treating conditions with its discovered drugs. They took a shot and won approval for Opzelura, a topical eczema treatment, last year. Incyte hopes to earn U.S. Food & Drug Administration approval for Opzelura to treat vitiligo in July.Meanwhile, Incyte has about 20 diseases in its pipeline that it is targeting with new or existing drugs, Hoppenot said. They are a mix of rare diseases and rare cancers, sometimes affecting fewer than 1,000 patients nationwide.In backing its patients, Incyte announced a five-year commitment extension to its Incyte Cancer Care Assistance Fund, which is administered by Cancer Support Community Delaware and provides emergency financial assistance for Delaware cancer patients, their caregivers and family members. The company will also double its annual contribution to the fund, donating up to $200,000 through the Incyte Charitable Giving Foundation. To date, the fund has assisted 435 people with different types of cancers, with an average expenditure of $1,175 per person.
[caption id="attachment_221827" align="alignleft" width="300"] Jan Meyer, a survivor of cholangiocarcinoma, thanks Incyte for its work on Pemzayre, a drug to treat the bile duct cancer. | DBT PHOTO BY JACOB OWENS[/caption]
At a ribbon-cutting ceremony Monday for the new lab building, Jan Meyer, a survivor of cholangiocarcinoma, a rare bile duct cancer, thanked Incyte for its work into her disease, which secured the first FDA-approved treatment for it, Pemazyre, in 2020. Her advocacy group, Cholangiocarcinoma Warriors, recently rented a billboard near the Delaware Memorial Bridge to also thank the company publicly.U.S. Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-Del.), who also attended the ceremony, also counts herself and her sister as among those who could benefit from Incyte’s work, as they both have vitiligo, where blotches of skin lose pigmentation.“It's hard for me to put into words what it felt like to hear that this is the kind of work that they were doing,” she told DBT. “I remember going to get my nails done and people saying, ‘What's wrong with your hands?’ And then you have to explain.”“For them to focus on a disease like this in addition to cancer is just a testament to who they are as a company,” she said.