Where Lab Samples Chill

While the future is now for EVs, a biobank helps prepare Georgia for tomorrow.
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The Year of the Electric Vehicle in Georgia ends with the announcement of another multibillion-dollar EV-related plant and other automotive news, but a cryogenic biobank in Norcross points to a different possible path for innovation in the state. Plus, Lockheed Martin and Stuckey’s show that even Georgia’s old dogs can learn new tricks.

Each NexGen freezer can hold about 90,000 samples.

Baby, It’s Cold Inside

Cryogenic freezers holding biological samples at minus-196 degrees Celsius (about minus-320 Fahrenheit) could help heat up Georgia’s life sciences industry.

NexGen Biobanking opened in the spring in 17,000 square feet in Norcross. There, freezers manufactured by IC Biomedical in Cartersville and MVE Biological Solutions in Ball Ground are keeping some 3.4 million specimens much colder than ice in nitrogen vapor.

NexGen tracks the exact temperature of each sample during its stay in Norcross.

NexGen doesn’t do lab work. It maintains samples for life sciences businesses, pharmaceutical companies, and academic institutions in a secure site. That way, places such as Emory University and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have more space for research, says NexGen’s managing partner, Andrew Pazahanick.

No similar facility exists in the Southeast, and customers are as far away as Europe, he says. Specimens can be shipped back to Europe overnight or sent to U.S. labs at a customer’s request.

The highly automated facility has about a dozen employees and represents private investments totaling shy of $5 million.

NexGen “will help our state become a leader in advancing precision medicine and empowering public and private research to progress more quickly,” Edie Stringfellow, the vice president for ecosystem development at the Atlanta-based nonprofit Center for Global Health Innovation, said in a Nov. 29 announcement.

If Georgia bids to be the home for the National Institutes of Health’s new Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health, Pazahanick says, “they have a lot of the basic infrastructure now, and we’re part of it.”

Hyundai Motor Group’s Kim Heung-soo (left) and SK On’s Choi Young-chan celebrate signing a memorandum of understanding on EV batteries for North America on Nov. 29 in Seoul.

Charged Up in Cartersville

South Korean companies SK On and Hyundai Motor Group are deepening their electric vehicle commitment to Georgia.

SK, which employs more than 2,000 people at its $2.6 billion SK Battery America plant in Commerce, and Hyundai, which is building a $5.5 billion EV manufacturing facility in Bryan County and has a Kia plant in West Point, say they’ll spend $4 billion to $5 billion on an EV battery plant employing 3,500 people in Bartow County about two miles northwest of Cartersville.

The plant, announced Dec. 8 and expected to open in 2025, falls under a memorandum of understanding the companies signed on Nov. 29 to supply batteries for Hyundai’s EV manufacturing in North America. SK’s Commerce plant makes batteries for Ford and Volkswagen.

“We expect the cooperation between SK On and Hyundai Motor Group to create a big synergy,” says SK Chief Administrative Officer Choi Young-chan. “Both sides can hold a solid position in the process of electrification in the North American auto market.”

Georgia has announced EV projects worth more than $21 billion and 26,300 jobs since 2020.

Domo Arigato, Mr. Roboto

German-based Becker Robotic Equipment, which makes cable management systems for robots used in auto manufacturing, is expanding its operations in Georgia with a new North American headquarters and manufacturing plant in Canton.

The move from Peachtree Corners, where Becker has operated since 2017, will cost more than $30 million and add 137 jobs to Cherokee County, according to a Dec. 5 announcement.

“The investment in Georgia builds on our previous success in the state and enables us to bring about a new phase of growth for our high-tech manufacturing operations,” says Johan Broekhuijsen, who leads Becker’s North American operations. Becker has not offered a timeline for the move.

C-130-3D?

Lockheed Martin, which makes the C-130 transport and pieces of the F-35 fighter in Marietta, is aiming higher with 3D printing.

On Dec. 7, the defense contractor announced that it’s researching technologies with Sintavia to expand the use of metal additive manufacturing instead of casting and forging flight-critical metal parts.

In July, Lockheed Martin revealed its hope to land government contracts to support an expansion costing as much as $1.6 billion over 20 years in Marietta. Its push for additive manufacturing, commonly known as 3D printing, aligns with a White House business initiative called AM Forward.

Going Nuts

Stuckey’s plans to spend more than $5 million to expand its headquarters and manufacturing facility in Wrens and add 60 jobs to the existing workforce of 90.

The two-year project is expected to start this month. Stuckey’s CEO Stephanie Stuckey said in a Dec. 1 press release that the work includes restoring her grandfather’s original pecan shed and bringing it to Wrens to make it a tourist destination.

Known for roadside stores selling pecan logs, Stuckey’s moved from Eastman in 2021 after it bought an operation in Wrens consisting of Atwell Pecan, Thames Pecan, and the Orchards Gourmet. That purchase enabled Stuckey’s to resume production of its own candy and other products.

 

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