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Coquí Radiopharmaceuticals President and CEO Carmen Bigles will be leading the company's operations.

ALACHUA – Coquí Radiopharmaceuticals has officially secured a 25-acre plot of land for their future facility in Alachua.

The University of Florida transferred the land to the company with the conditions they develop the road needed to access the land and they receive approval from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).

President and CEO of Coquí, Carmen Bigles, said she is thrilled about the land transfer.

“I’m ecstatic,” Bigles said. “I’m so happy to be part of Alachua, and I can’t wait to break ground.”

Coquí Radiopharmaceuticals is a medical isotope company and will be the first commercial company to produce Molybdenum-99, an isotope used to create Technicium-99m.

Technicium-99m is used in the diagnosis of many illnesses such as cancer, Alzheimer’s, coronary disease and even Parkinson’s. According to Bigles, it is used in approximately 50,000 medical diagnostic procedures per day in the U.S.

Technicium-99m is currently not being produced in the U.S. and many major producers of the isotope are shutting down.

Bigles said there are many other benefits to producing Technicium-99m domestically. The isotope has a very short shelf life and cannot be stockpiled, Bigles said. Therefore, producing it within the U.S. will make it more readily available to patients around the country.

The production of Technicium-99m within the country will benefit more than just the patients who need it, Bigles said.

“[It] is really important, not just for the patients that need it, but it’s also really important to progress in medicine,” she said. “You need this to also do the research and studies of it.”

When deciding on a location for their facility, Bigles said they originally wanted to do it in Puerto Rico. When it became apparent that would not work, she said they were drawn to Florida because of the University of Florida.

She said they were excited about the possibility to partner with the university’s research groups and scientists.

Bigles also said she felt a pull to the area when she came for her first meeting. Rick Staab, who is part of Tyler’s Hope Foundation, had offered her his boardroom to hold the meeting.

Staab’s children have Dystonia, a neurological movement disorder characterized by involuntary muscle contractions. Tyler’s Hope is a foundation working toward the cure for dystonia.

Bigles said when she went into the building, there is a poster Tyler had made in the third grade perfectly describing what Molybdenum-99 was and what it did and why it was important.

“I always think of it as if it was meant to be,” Bigles said.

Win Phillips of the University of Florida said the university agreed to the land transfer because the growth of business is exactly what that land was intended for. According to Phillips, the parcel of land is adjacent to Progress Corporate Park.

“The whole intent of Progress Park is economic development and attracting business and opportunities in this town,” Phillips said.

“The deal is that Coquí locating there brings appreciation to that property. And the fact that they are willing to bring in development of that property increases the value of that property and the adjacent lands and the opportunity that other companies will locate there,” he added.

Phillips also said the university is looking forward to the partnering of their researchers and resources with Coquí.

“We think it’s a great opportunity for the joint development between Coquí Pharmaceuticals and ourselves,” he said.

Bigles said the facility is expected to bring 200 new permanent jobs to Alachua with average salaries around $80,000. This facility will draw new families to the area as well, creating more business.

Bigles says they hope to have all the necessary documents submitted to the NRC by the end of 2015. The NRC will then look over and evaluate the plans. If everything goes accordingly, Bigles said they hope to break ground in 2017, being operational by 2020.

“I’m just ecstatic that we will be part of all the brainpower that is emerging from Alachua.”

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