Fighting cancer at former Delaware Wanamaker site

Biopharmaceutical firm Incyte celebrated the grand opening of its new headquarters in the former department store in Wilmington.

State leaders joined company officials, Friday, to mark the official opening of the research facility which will house 550 workers dedicated to fighting cancer.

“We have in this building, working every day, some of the best chemists in the world, some of the best biologists in the world, some of the best scientists that are working on very innovative technologies on how to treat and cure cancer,” said Incyte President and COO Hervé Hoppenot.

Incyte moved into its new headquarters on Augustine Cut-Off from its old lab space at the nearby DuPont Experimental Station. The newly renovated 191,000 sq. ft. facility includes office and laboratory space. “We are very excited to be headquartered in such an iconic building and appreciate the encouragement and support we have received from every corner of the state,” Hoppenot said.

State economic development leaders worked to keep Incyte in Delaware. Governor Jack Markell was pleased the company was convinced by their pitch. “This industry is at the intersection of improving people’s quality of life or saving lives, while also creating tremendous employment opportunities and tremendous careers,” Markell said. “It really does not get any better than that.”

Incyte’s claim to fame is Jakafi (ruxolitinib), a drug treatment for a rare form of blood cancer approved by the FDA in 2011.

Dan Childress was a patient in the Jakafi clinical trial. He praised the company’s work during Friday’s grand opening ceremony. While state leaders celebrate the jobs and the economic impact of Incyte in Delaware, it means much more to patients like Childress, who have been successfully treated with Jakafi.

“It’s a husband and wife’s incredible journey together not cut short. It’s a father who has now become a grandfather long after I was not supposed to be here,” Childress said. “To see that precious bundle of life and experience him and knowing that I will be a part of his life for long to come, has just been remarkable.” 

The Incyte move is a bright spot in an industry that has seen lots of cuts in Delaware. In 2013, AstraZeneca announced plans to cut 1,200 jobs from its North American headquarters complex in Wilmington. Earlier this year, Pfizer made an attempt to take over AZ. That move drew concerns from state leaders about even further cuts to the workforce in Delaware.

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