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LAFAYETTE, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — Germany-based biomedical company Evonik says the expansion of its facility in Lafayette will help ensure that the U.S. is prepared for another pandemic. The company announced in early June it will build an additional facility at its current site in Tippecanoe County to manufacture lipids, molecules that encapsulate and deliver mRNA vaccines to cells in the body. The technology was used in the production of two COVID treatments.

In an interview with Business of Health reporter Kylie Veleta, Evonik Global Project Manager Yvonne Hurt said mRNA technology shows promise in the treatment of other diseases.

“As the future of medicine, mRNA can be used to treat COVID. Potential areas could be the flu, Zika, HIV, or even cancer,” said Hurt. “It’s currently actually the most advanced way to deliver drugs.”

Evonik operates two lipid producing plants in Germany. Their output was used in the Pfizer/BioNtech COVID-19 vaccine. Hurt says the Lafayette plant, the company’s first lipid plant in the U.S., will be able out-produce the European facilities.

Evonik says the $220 million investment to expand operations in Lafayette will be offset by more than $150 million from the federal government’s Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

That investment puts the U.S. government at the head of the line when responding to another pandemic.

“This new facility really ensures a rapid and extensive supply of lipids in case of a future pandemic,” said Hurt. “The U.S. government gets priority access for a 10-year period and most favorite customer pricing on those lipids.”

Evonik already operates a plant in Tippecanoe County, producing pharmaceutical ingredients. It employs 650 workers. The new plant will eventually employ up to 80 high-skill jobs in the areas of operations, engineering, and quality assurance.

Construction is set to begin in 2023 and the company will begin hiring for positions in Lafayette in 2024. Evonik plans for the new plant to become operational in 2025.

INDIANAPOLIS (Inside INdiana Business) — The founder and chief executive officer of Indianapolis-based startup XR Technologies calls the shortage of math teachers in Indiana “beyond crisis.” Kevin Berkopes’ company helps fill those roles by accelerating the teacher training and licensure process. In May, the ed-tech firm received Indiana State Board of Education approval to offer the licensing program to get newly trained math teachers into the classroom.

In an interview on Inside Indiana Business with Gerry Dick, Berkopes said a $5 million grant from IDOE helps to support the training of teachers and placement in schools.

“It’s competency based, which means we can employ teachers at schools. They get competency for the work that they’re doing and the training that we do to make sure they’re excellent mathematics teachers,” said Berkopes.

The pandemic created chaos for schools, forcing them to close and adopt remote learning. When schools were allowed to reopen, many Indiana school districts saw a growing of teacher resignations and retirements, creating a shortage in the teaching ranks, especially in mathematics.

“It’s 10 years, so 20 years really in the making. But the pandemic really exacerbated everything that de-incentivized people to want to not be a part of the education system,” said Berkopes. “You can imagine what it was like in the last three years in classrooms with students who are not in classrooms.”

The company has about 50 employees, many of which are in a second career as a math teacher. They already possess a bachelor’s degree but want to enter education through a different profession.

“There’s a different way of thinking about how to get innovation into our education system. The Department of Education is leading with the idea that they can incentivize through grant funding and other things to get schools to try something new,” Berkopes said.

Previously, the traditional credentialing process would require XR Technologies to partner with a university to help teachers obtain their Indiana teaching license. But after receiving approval from IDOE, future math teachers can now pursue a license while working in a school for XR Technologies.

He says their path is a quicker and less expensive way than enrolling in a university teacher training program.

“That first academic year they get full time salary benefits stock options with our company, but they also up their credential and get a licensure,” said Berkopes.

Beyond training, the company also offers a broader service platform to schools that want to outsource a portion of the entirety of their math department functions.

“I think the best way to say it’s a ‘Math Department-as-a-Service, which is very different than what you would see on the open market,” said Berkopes. “We run all or part of the mathematics departments for our school partners.”

INDIANAPOLIS (Inside INdiana Business) — Two Indiana agriculture organizations are among several urging Congress to pass immigration laws that address the nation’s labor shortages, especially in the farming industry. Indiana Dairy Producers and the Indiana Poultry Association warn failure to act could lead to higher food prices and pose a threat to the food supply. The organizations say the current H-2A guestworker program needs reform.

“The H-2A program…is geared towards vegetable and fruit farms. But our livestock industry has no year- round source for workers. And this has deep implications on our farm,” said Steve Obert, executive director of Indiana Dairy Producers.

The federal guestworker program, first approved by Congress in 1986, allows agricultural employers to hire workers from other countries on temporary work permits for farm jobs that last ten months or less. But operations, like dairy and poultry farms, require year-round help.

“This is a critical issue that impacts that ability to do that and also keeping prices down as we go through a period of inflationary pressure that we all have been experiencing,” said Obert, who runs a dairy farm near Evansville.

Click here to listen to more of Obert’s comments about the need for improved farm worker policies.

At a roundtable convened Tuesday by the Indiana Dairy Producers and the American Business Immigration Coalition, speakers called on the Senate to pass legislation that increases access to the H-2A visa program, “enhances our food security by protecting domestic agriculture production and ensures that grocery store shelves remain stocked.”

Indiana’s poultry producers face similar obstacles. Indiana is one of the leading states in egg, duck and turkey production.

“We rely on immigrant labor to help our animals, and, like the dairy sector, we need help year-round,” said Indiana Poultry Association President Rebecca Joniskan. “We rely on our workers to have good knowledge of animal welfare, and also to be cognizant of our biosecurity needs as we face disease incidents.”

A recent outbreak of highly pathogenic avian flu impacted 13 farms in five Indiana counties. Nearly 200,000 turkeys and ducks were euthanized to contain the spread of the disease.

In March 2021, the U.S House of Representatives approved a bipartisan bill that would provide changes to the H-2A program. The Farm Workforce Modernization Act permits farmworkers, their spouses and children to earn legal status through continued employment in the agricultural sector.

The U.S. Senate has not taken up the legislation and farm groups are urging them to do so.

“This sort of reform is important to give [our workers] some predictability to their employment status. And all of that goes to support healthy, nutritious, affordable protein. We encourage our Members of Congress to push forward and try to find solutions that work for not only Hoosiers but our whole country—and in support of our industries,” said Joniskan.

Obert says immigrant labor is estimated to provide care and milk 79% of the U.S. milk supply. He says without migrant workers, retail milk prices would double.

“Costing the U.S. economy nearly $32 billion. So, it’s important to point out that for our livestock industry and those that are needing year-round workers,” Obert said.

INDIANAPOLIS (Inside INdiana Business) — When Marian University students return to campus this fall in Indianapolis, they may engage with some much younger students. The university is launching a K-12 private school, offering both virtual instruction and face-to-face engagement with instructors. The institution says Marian University Preparatory School courses are intended to augment or create new learning experiences in traditional schools.

During an appearance on Inside INdiana Business with Gerry Dick, Head of School Elisha Schlabach said the pandemic revealed a need for alternative instruction.

“The shutdown for schools really provided an opportunity and a need,” said Schlabach. “We saw a need where parents were wanting to be more involved in their child’s education. And then also the flexible scheduling that that provided.”

Marian is accepting applications right now for grades six-through-nine for this fall session. In subsequent years, Marian will add grade levels, eventually offering K-12 instruction. Students will have the option to choose from two different programs.

“They can attend with us full time virtually. They can also attend our hybrid model, which is being with us virtually for part of the time and then two days a week, coming on site to Marion University’s campus working with our hybrid teachers,” Schlabach explained.

Private education company Stride Inc. (NYSE: LRN) is providing the curriculum, resources and tools for the program.

Marian says it envisions offering this program on a national scale. For now, Schlabach says there seems to be a lot of support.

“I think there’s just a lot of excitement about being a part of something innovative and new,” said Schlabach. “And I think a lot of other educators and families see that there really is a need for what we’re offering.”

EVANSVILLE, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — The day when interstate motorists can cross the Ohio River from Evansville to Henderson, Kentucky is still about a decade away, however the bi-state project on Wednesday hit a major milestone. Officials from Kentucky and Indiana broke ground on the first phase of the Interstate 69 Ohio River Crossing.

The I-69 ORX project is divided into three sections for construction. Section one focuses on improvements in Henderson and extends from KY 425 to US 60. The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet says work begins this summer and will continue through 2025.

“This is a monumental day,” said Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear. “The I-69 Ohio River Crossing will mean improved travel and increased opportunities in Western Kentucky and beyond. It gives me a lot of pride to proclaim to the people of Western Kentucky that ‘We’re off!’”

Phase two involves construction of a four-lane, tolled bridge over the Ohio River. This is the link that will connect the two states via I-69.

“It’s a great feeling to stand in Henderson today, pick up a shovel and help turn the first dirt on this monumental project,” said Evansville Mayor Lloyd Winnecke. “The I-69 Ohio River Crossing will join our communities in ways not possible before. Interstate connectivity is a gamechanger.”

The ORX project team says bridge design is expected to begin in 2025 with construction anticipated to begin in 2027. It will take about four years to complete that phase of the project.

ORX section three involves construction of the bridge approach in Indiana. That project, being overseen by the Indiana Department of Transportation, is expected to begin 2024.

Motorists currently cross the river via U.S. 41. According to the I-69 ORX website, the southbound bridge will likely be demolished after the I-69 bridge opens. The northbound U.S. 41 bridge will be retained for two-way traffic.

Officials say maintenance costs on the old bridge are high. Indiana and Kentucky say they have spent more than $50 million on maintenance costs on the US 41 bridges since 2005.

Click here to learn more about the project.

WARSAW, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — Warsaw-based OrthoPediatrics Corp. (Nasdaq: KIDS) says it has entered an agreement to acquire Pega Medical, a Canadian orthopedics device manufacturer, in a mostly-cash deal valued at $33 million. Under the terms of the deal, the Kosciusko County company says it will pay an upfront cash payment of $31 million and $2 million in stock.

OrthoPediatrics says Pega focuses primarily on skeletal deformities found in pediatric populations.

“Similar to OrthoPediatrics, the Pega organization has been focused exclusively on addressing unmet needs for children whose lives have been impacted by musculoskeletal disorders and diseases,” said OrthoPediatrics Chief Executive Officer David Bailey.

As part of the deal, OrthoPediatrics is acquiring Pega’s Fassier-Duval Telescopic Intramedullary System, an implant designed to treat bony deformities in children with osteogenesis imperfecta.

“Their product offerings include novel technologies to treat some of the most unique conditions in pediatric orthopedics,” said Bailey.

OrthoPediatrics also reports it is increasing its full year 2022 revenue guidance range to $125 million to $128 million, representing growth of 27% to 31%.

CARMEL, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — Carmel-based security management software company CSA360 says it has closed a $1.3 million round of seed funding. The software helps security companies manage operations, including staffing, event monitoring and responding to security incidents.

CSA360 says Indianapolis-based Elevate Ventures and various angel investors participated in the round.

“The CSA360 team has a deep understanding of the security industry and has created a software solution that helps these teams work more efficiently,” said Jacob Schpok, Elevate Ventures’ chief entrepreneurship officer. “We’re thrilled to continue working with them as they grow their business.”

The company says it will use funding to add sales and marketing staff and continuing product development.

Founded in 2011, the company says it has more than 20 customers nationwide, including several NFL, NBA and MLB arenas, major concert venues, and corporate complexes.

INDIANAPOLIS (Inside INdiana Business) — Indiana’s growing technology ecosystem is garnering attention at London Tech Week, a global summit exploring the power and growing innovation of all things tech. The state’s efforts to advance entrepreneurial efforts were highlighted by California-based Startup Genone, a policy advisory and research organization, that released its 2022 Global Startup Ecosystem Report.

The Hoosier State was ranked as a Global Top 40 Emerging Ecosystem. The ranking is based on venture capital funding, affordability, and a business-friendly climate.

“The Start Up Genome Top 40 ranking is an exciting validation of the hard work of our entrepreneurs—but there is still more, as a state, we can do,” said Indiana Secretary of Commerce Brad Chambers. “We are leaning in and finding innovative new ways to enable our immensely talented young people to propel our economy forward.”

Indiana also placed high on several subsets, including named as a Top 15 North American Ecosystem in Affordable Talent. The state is also ranked as a Top 20 North American Ecosystem in “Bang for Buck,” which indicates how much tech funding startups are able to secure in venture capital.

In November, the Indiana Economic Development Corp. commissioned a study with Startup Genome to examine Indiana’s entrepreneurial and innovation ecosystem development. It looked at strengths and weaknesses and create benchmarks against peers and top global startup ecosystems.

“We are excited about Indiana’s startup community’s future because of the increasing investment in its innovative entrepreneurs,” said JF Gauthier, founder and CEO of Startup Genome.

Click here to learn more about the GSE report.

FISHERS, Ind. (Inside INDiana Business) — List Biotherapeutics Inc. has broken ground on a 110,000-square-food contract manufacturing facility in Fishers. The company announced plans last fall to invest $125 million to build a laboratory and production plant in the Fishers Life Science and Innovation Park.

List Bio says it plans to hire 210 employees for the Fishers facility.

The company, a subsidiary of South Korea-based Genome & Co., specializes in biologics manufacturing. The facility will produce microbiomes, a beneficial bacteria used to target a variety of diseases or conditions.

The company says the facility will offer an end-to-end manufacturing solution from early-stage development to late-stage clinical trials and commercialization in the pharmaceutical space.

Construction is expected to be complete by the end of 2023.

INDIANAPOLIS (Inside INdiana Business) — A couple of central Indiana entrepreneurs wants to be the AirBnB for adventure gear. Josh Roche and John Laughlin are co-founders of Quiptu, a sharing economy platform for outdoor equipment, such as kayaks, trail bikes and camping gear. Their business allows adventurers to rent gear from local owners.

In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, Laughlin said they want people to enjoy the outdoors and make it affordable.

“We’re the conduit between the owner and the renter. The owner, who has the gear and the knowledge and expertise, is meeting the renter,” said Laughlin, chief operating officer of Quiptu. “The renter is often dabbling into that activity. So before taking the plunge and spending over $1,000 on gear, you can now ‘try it before you buy it.’”

The business partners, who are also brothers-in-law, launched the company launched last week, eight months after Quiptu Chief Executive Officer Josh Roche originally came up with the idea.

Laughlin says the business concept was born from a logistical problem. Roche, who lives in Bloomington, was invited to a bike packing trip along the Great Divide Mountain Biking Route in Montana. But there were no options to rent an off-road, gravel bike out there for that length of time. So, Roche borrowed a bike in Indiana.

“We had to go and take the bike apart, break it down into 51 pieces, and then ship it to Montana and put it together there. And the whole thing was just was just painful,” Laughlin said.

Once Roche completed the trip, he had to break down the bike, ship it back, and reassemble.

“The conclusion was if there was someone in Montana who would have owned an extra gravel bike, he would have paid double to not deal with that headache,” said Laughlin.

That pain point helped the entrepreneurs come up with a concept. But before developing the app, they conducted over 100 user interviews to examine other challenges for outdoor adventurers, such as storage space for equipment and retail cost of the gear.

The app makes the peer-to-peer introduction, but the owner sets the rental price. Laughlin says prices for a kayak or paddleboard could range from $20-$50 a day, while bikes could range from $30-$100 daily.

“Natural market forces there. We provide some guidelines, but the owner can charge whatever he or she like would like to for the gear,” explained Laughlin.

The team has already notched some big successes. In November, they won the Elevate Nexus Regional Pre-Seed Competition. The following month, they won the 2021 Crossroads Idea Competition hosted by Bloomington-based business incubator The Mill.

“I have been working with Josh and John since they were in the ideation stage. Elevate invested back in November through our Nexus Pitch Competition and it’s been impressive watching them build Quiptu around unlocking the untapped value of outdoor equipment that often goes unused,” said Cy Megnin, an Entrepreneur-in-Residence with Elevate Ventures.

Quiptu is launching in a total of eight markets in Indiana and Colorado. The locations are centered around college towns and metro areas, including Bloomington, Lafayette, South Bend and Indianapolis. The company’s head of marketing, Ben Kirby, is based in Fort Collins, Colorado, where he will work to boost Quiptu’s market share.

“Our research told us that college campuses and college towns are our ideal places for this to happen because undergraduate students tend to be adventurous but don’t have a big checking account for buying gear,” said Laughlin.

He says they want to build towards a network of lessors, so renters have regional options to obtain gear. Laughlin says there has been a surge in popularity in kayaking, biking and camping since the start of the pandemic. He says their app is helping first-time adventurers to seasoned explorers enjoy the outdoors.

“One of our values is ‘Green time over screen time’. We couldn’t be happier to allow the opportunity for people to live their adventure, to get outside and do something fun that would have normally been cost prohibitive,” said Laughlin. “This sort of positive force has us excited and willing to work as hard as we have been on this”

As far as the company name? Laughlin says they’re “looking to ‘equip you’” with the necessary gear to start an adventure.