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VU portfolio company TyraTech's relocation 'suspended', but not dead
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Essam Enan in his VU lab

TyraTech Inc.'s consideration of relocating to Nashville is "on hold for now," according to Essam Enan, who is chief science officer for the Melbourne, Fla.-headquartered company, as well as a research professor of biochemistry within Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

TyraTech develops and markets next-generation insect repellants, waste treatment, human foods and other products. The company has been considering for more than a year whether or not to relocate to Nashville or another city from Melbourne.

The decision, which was expected to be finalized this year, was to be based partly on economic-development incentives that Melbourne or other prospective host cities might offer.

Despite slow progress toward profitability, TyraTech's profile is only growing more attractive to those who want to cultivate high-tech employment in Middle Tennessee.

Recently published TyraTech reports indicate the company now employs an average 47 full-timers, compared with 18 in 2007.

Responding to a query last week from VNC, Enan gave no explanation for the life-sciences company's hold on decision-making.

However, TyraTech Head of Project Operations Robert Nagro responded to a VNC call placed this morning to TyraTech CEO Douglas Armstrong, Ph.D.

Nagro said, in part, "While it is true that TyraTech has temporarily suspended its efforts to relocate the company, we are still considering such a move in the future.  We continue to work with state and local governments in several localities, including Nashville, to develop a financially sound plan for TyraTech to consolidate our facilities in a suitable community.  The recent world-wide financial crisis has put our plans on hold, as it has the plans of many other companies, large and small, but we are sure when that crisis has been resolved we will be able to proceed.
Nagro added, "I should note that TyraTech’s reported losses were neither unexpected nor unusual for a start-up company just shipping its first products.  It is typical for a young company such as ours to experience losses as it builds its customer base and fills its product pipeline in anticipation of growing revenue in the future."

Armstrong's Sept. 26 letter to shareholders sheds additional light. The company reported a loss in the first half of 2008 of $8.9 million, nearly as large as that of the same period, year-earlier. Those results could presage a yearly loss surpassing that of fiscal 2007, which $16.5 million. Management attributes the losses mainly to slower-than-expected ramp-up of product sales and growing research and overhead costs.

Vanderbilt University's technology-commercialization office lists TyraTech among the university's portfolio companies, and TyraTech reports indicate Vanderbilt may hold at least 65,000 shares of the company, having also been paid in 2007 about $450,000 for "certain patents and patent applications."

TyraTech lists among its strategic partners Kraft Foods, Arysta Life Sciences, Inc., India-based AccuDigm and distributor SYSCO. This story will be updated as warranted.

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Tags: biotechnology, Douglas Armstrong, economic development, Essam Enan, life sciences, Robert Nagro, technology transfer, TyraTech, Vanderbilt University

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