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Steve Turner

Groundbreaking science with potential to help people all over the world is happening right here in West Virginia.

Stephen Turner founded Protea in Morgantown in 2001. Today, 45 employees there are developing products that will be foundational for all medical and life science research: identifying the types of bio-molecules that all living cells and organisms make. Their main focus is developing technology which improves the identification process. Protea manufactures more than 100 products that are used by researchers worldwide. Scientists at Protea also have the skills to identify bio-molecules themselves when researchers send their biological samples, thereby developing a new services enterprise.

Protea Biosciences, Inc.

Protea reached an important goal in 2011 with the completion of its first human clinical trial on a new drug that would be used to treat chronic pancreatic disease. About 200,000 people in the United States suffer from the condition known as exocrine pancreatic insufficiency. Common in people with cystic fibrosis and pancreatic cancer, it causes an inability to digest food and absorb nutrients. People who have it experience severe abdominal pain, especially when eating, and rapid weight loss. The study results met Protea’s expectations, and a second human clinical trial for the drug is planned early next year. Turner believes milestones such as this could not have been achieved without support from the state.

“Government officials have helped us facilitate financing, which has allowed us to purchase equipment, increase our business and expand our workforce,” he said. “It’s been a very positive place to grow. It’s not far from major markets, like Pittsburgh, Washington and New York.” Turner’s plans for Protea include even more growth in the near future.

“This will be a major competitive global biotechnology company. We’ll probably have 200 employees here in the next five years,” he said. “In our industry there’s lots of room to expand. We think we’ll be an important part of West Virginia’s economy.”

For now, Turner is helping spread the word about the state’s business environment.

“I don’t think the state of West Virginia gives itself enough credit for all it has accomplished. The sum of all the minor changes that have occurred over the last ten years has resulted in a very positive climate. I’ll include in that the development of the educational resources here and the workforce training programs. All those elements combine to create a really excellent place to build a company,” Turner said. “We’re one of a handful of states that has its financial affairs in order. I think sometimes we need to shake off the traditional sense of inferiority. This is a great state that is beautifully positioned to grow in the 21st century economy.”



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