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Politicians welcome planned London, Ont., pharmaceutical facility with groundbreaking ceremony

(From left to right): Councillor Shawn Lewis, Councillor Arielle Kayabaga, Andy Vo, Mayor Ed Holder, Tam Vo, and Peter Vo.
(From left to right): Councillor Shawn Lewis, Councillor Arielle Kayabaga, Andy Vo, Mayor Ed Holder, Tam Vo, and Peter Vo. Andrew Graham/980 CFPL

In what’s being seen as a major boost to London’s life sciences sector, a nine-acre plot of land on the southeast edge of the city will soon be the site of a state-of-the-art pharmaceutical research and development lab and manufacturing facility.

ANVO Pharma Group of Oakville plans to move its global headquarters to 2479 Bonder Rd. in London and develop the site into a 40,000-sq. ft facility developing and manufacturing generic specialty medications.

A groundbreaking ceremony was held on Friday at the site, attended by London Mayor Ed Holder, local MPs Lindsay Mathyssen and Kate Young, MPP Teresa Armstrong, and councillors Arielle Kayabaga and Shawn Lewis.

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“What a story, especially during these kinds of times,” Holder told those on hand, including Tam Vo, ANVO’s owner and founder, and other members of the Vo family, including his wife Diana, and sons Andy and Peter.

“The investments you’re going to make, the jobs you’re going to create, are critical for London, and matter particularly at a time like this. Jobs in the life sciences are great-paying jobs in a high-value industry, and will benefit our economy so much.”

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Construction of the new facility, located in the city’s Advanced Manufacturing Park, is being planned out in three phases, with phase one scheduled for completion by the third quarter of next year.

At first, the facility will employ around 30 to 35 people and will manufacture more than a billion units worth of generic heart disease, diabetes, and Hepatitis medication in tablet and capsule form.

With further phases, the company hopes to employ more than 100 workers, and will start producing injection medications and vaccines, said Vo.

“A big thank you to the City of London and London Economic Development Corporation. We never forget (how) you help us. Any request, any question we asked, we received the answer within 24 hours,” he said.

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Vo, who came to Canada with his family from Saigon, Vietnam five years ago, recalled a Zoom call he had held with Holder, other city officials, and the LEDC when they were looking across the province for potential sites.

“I know… the mayor and the team is very busy because COVID-19, they are very, very busy to stop spread to the community, but they did set a Zoom call. ‘Tam… Welcome to London,'” he said.

“I could not say no! I did say ‘yes, yes, yes. We go to London!'”

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Attracting business to the city has its challenges in the best of times let alone during a global viral pandemic.

In response, the LEDC has had to dive further into the virtual realm when it comes to giving potential buyers an idea of the city’s available industrial lands, including ANVO.

“Part of that exercise was deploying drone footage to cover our industrial assets and do more virtual tours of these industrial parks,” said LEDC’s president and CEO, Kapil Lakhotia.

“I think this is a new norm for us. We will be using a lot more of these virtual technologies that can be used to showcase our communities, assets, our workforce capacity, our different infrastructure to overseas investors.”

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Lakhotia said bringing ANVO to London was a team effort involving his LEDC colleagues, city officials, including business liaison director Mark Henderson, and others. He adds that with the pandemic, the city is looking to grow its life sciences cluster even further.

“The arrival of ANVO… certainly helps us get a stronger foothold in that direction.”

— Andrew Graham contributed reporting

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