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Pebble Labs In Los Alamos Receives $4 Million Grant From State; Announces Scientific Breakthroughs

on July 11, 2019 - 3:52pm

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham told the crowd gathered for a press conference Tuesday at Pebble Labs in Los Alamos that she is proud to be supporting homegrown businesses like Pebble Labs that are driving innovation and cutting-edge scientific research right here in New Mexico. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com

Economic Development Cabinet Secretary Alicia J. Keyes announcing that the state is pledging $4 million in LEDA funds to help expand Pebble Labs. Seated from left, Pebble Labs CEO Michael Harrison, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and Los Alamos County Manager Harry Burgess. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com

Pebble Labs Chief Science Officer Dr. Richard Sayre making the announcement Tuesday that his team anticipates having 100 percent Zika-free mosquitoes by the end of this year. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com

 

By BONNIE J. GORDON
Los Alamos Daily Post

bjgordon@ladailypost.com

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and Economic Development Cabinet Secretary Alicia J. Keyes cabinet were at Pebble Labs in Los Alamos Tuesday for some important announcements.  

Pebble Labs researches areas such as food and crop safety, public health, and the reduction of the occurrence of vector-borne diseases.

Keyes announced that the state is pledging $4 million in Local Economic Development Act (LEDA) funds to help with the expansion of Pebble Labs.

The company also announced recent breakthroughs in eradicating the white spot virus in shrimp and freeing mosquitoes from the Zika virus, which they spread to humans.

“New Mexico has stepped up with a major investment package to help ensure the success of Pebble Labs,” Keyes said. “The company promises to change the world with breakthroughs in food safety and disease research. The expansion will create good high-paying jobs in New Mexico.”

Keyes said Pebble also qualifies for up to $3.25 million in employee training money from the State’s Job Training Incentive Program (JTIP), a grant that helps reimburse businesses for the cost of employee training.

Pebble may also apply for future incentives such as the high-wage jobs tax credit. Both programs have application guidelines and benchmarks that would have to be satisfied.

Lujan Grisham weighed in on supporting bioscience and other high-tech businesses in New Mexico.

“I am proud to be supporting homegrown businesses like Pebble Labs that are driving innovation and cutting-edge scientific research right here in New Mexico,” Lujan Grisham said.

Lujan Grisham gave a shout-out to District 43 Rep. Christine Chandler for making sure that the state got $75 million for local economic development in the last legislative session.
“By investing in promising industries like biosciences and technology, we are creating sustainable, high-paying jobs and growing our local economies,” she said. “This is exactly the kind of business expansion and industry growth that will diversify the state’s economy and keep talented young adults here in New Mexico,” she said.

 “It is incredible that a state with limited water, limited resources and limited people is going to be in a position, because of the talented men and women and the vision of this company, to create sustainable food for 10 billion people on this planet today and for the future,” Lujan Grisham said.

Pebble Labs CEO Michael Harrison called New Mexico a “goldmine.”

“We have been able to not only attract people from around the world but we’ve been able to find amazing talent here in New Mexico,” he said  

Pebble Labs Chief Science Officer Dr. Richard Sayre later noted that the lab employs people from 20 countries. More than half of its employees are women and one-third are from New Mexico, he said.
Pebble Labs plans to expand to more than 230 full-time employees. Full-time workers at Pebble Labs, earn about $130,000, Harrison said.

According to a press release from the Dept. of Economic Development, the company will spend $20 million annually. The direct economic impact of the Pebble expansion is expected to be $577 million, with more than $1 billion in total economic impact, both direct and induced.

Pebble is also expanding physically. New Mexico Consortium, for which Los Alamos County provided the land, is moving out of the space it currently occupies with Pebble Labs. Pebble Labs will remain and expand the facility.

Los Alamos County is issuing $12.5 million in industrial revenue bonds and will retain ownership of a portion of the property with Pebble, leasing the space back from the county until the bonds are paid, Los Alamos County Manager Harry Burgess explained.

Burgess said the County is “thrilled” that Pebble Labs is committing to long-term residence in Los Alamos.

“Lately, we’ve had a lot of success in retaining start-ups,” he said.

Pebble Labs Chief Science Officer Dr. Richard Sayre made a prediction.

“We anticipate we will have 100 percent Zika-free mosquitoes by the end of the year,” he said.

Since mosquitoes spread the virus to humans, this innovation could save many thousands of lives.

Another breakthrough reduces the transmission of white spot syndrome virus (WSSV) in shrimp. The study, soon to be published, is the first to successfully use bacteria expressing RNA interference molecules to block the replication and transmission of the virus in shrimp, Sayre said.

“This is a major breakthrough because it will increase the yield of shrimp farms and other food sources, such as salmon and even poultry and beef, without the over-use of antibiotics,” he said. “On a planet that is soon to reach ten billion people, this promises to feed our population while reducing the use of chemicals and putting less stress on our ecosystems.”

Pebble has four divisions. LittleFly focuses on insect-born disease, MermaidBio on pathogens in aquaculture and IronLeaf on growing food with fewer pesticides and less waste. Its innovation division, BenchWorks, brings scientists from several disciplines together to create and monetize intellectual property, either from licensing or creating spin-off companies.

Los Alamos County Manager Harry Burgess in addressing the crowd Tuesday said that the County is thrilled that Pebble Labs is committing to long-term residence in Los Alamos. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com

Nan Sauer, second from right, of Los Alamos National Laboratory listens to the presentations Tuesday at Pebble Labs. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com

Los Alamos County officials listening to the presentations Tuesday at Pebble Labs from left, County Attorney Alvin Leaphart, Deputy County Manager Steven Lynne and County Councilors Antonio Maggiore, Randall Ryti and David Izraelevitz. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com

House Dist. 43 Rep. Christine Chandler of Los Alamos chats with Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham following the press conference Tuesday at Pebble Labs. Photo by Bonnie J. Gordon/ladailypost.com

Enterprise Bank Los Alamos Market President Liddie Martinez with Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham following the press conference Tuesday at Pebble Labs. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham arrives Tuesday in the lobby at Pebble Labs and hams it up a bit prior to the press conference. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com

Pebble Labs Chief Science Officer Dr. Richard Sayre with Enterprise Bank Los Alamos Market President Liddie Martinez in the lobby of Pebble Labs Tuesday prior to the press conference. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com

Scene of laboratory area Tuesday at Pebble Labs. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com

Scene of laboratory area Tuesday at Pebble Labs. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com

Scene of laboratory area Tuesday at Pebble Labs. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com

Scene of laboratory area Tuesday at Pebble Labs. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com


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