September 17, 2014

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Oberlin medical device firm to add 60 jobs

OBERLIN — A $5.1 million state tax break for Oberlin-based Synapse Biomedical Inc., which developed a way to ease breathing for Lou Gehrig’s disease patients, will allow it to add 60 jobs.

The Ohio Tax Credit Authority approved a 50 percent, seven-year Job Creation Tax Credit for the company, which builds the NeuRx Diaphragm Pacing System at 300 Artino St.

“We plan on ramping up over the next three years and hiring an additional 60 people,” said company spokesman Steven Annunziato. “It will definitely be a catalyst in helping us grow.”

The company will be hiring skilled technicians, engineers, quality assurance, customer service and financial staff, said Annunziato, senior vice president of marketing and sales.

Through the hiring process, he said the company will seek the assistance of BioEnterprise, a Cleveland-based initiative designed to grow health care companies and commercialize bioscience technologies.

Company President and CEO Anthony Ignagni called the speed of the approval “amazing,” considering Synapse applied for the credit only about a month ago. He praised Team Lorain County and Jobs Ohio officials for their assistance in expediting the process.

The NeuRx device helps people with paralysis or Lou Gehrig’s disease breathe by stimulating the diaphragm, the primary breathing muscle.

Among the first people to use the device was “Superman” actor Christopher Reeve, who had a spinal cord injury.

It is about the size of a TV remote control and works when electrodes implanted in the diaphragm muscles electronically stimulate them to contract, allowing the person to inhale.

It replaces the mechanical ventilator, which forces air into the lungs through a tube down the throat or through a tracheostomy in the neck.

Reeve, who received the device in 2003, marveled at once again being able to smell coffee because air was traveling through his nose and mouth. Before his death of heart failure in 2004, Reeve was featured using the device in an interview with Barbara Walters.

People with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, often have respiratory insufficiency, and the device helps them lead more normal lives.

Synapse has 15 full-time and four part-time employees in Oberlin. The company also has an employee at its office in Paris, France, and two salespeople around the U.S., Ignagni said.

The company has already begun looking at resumes, he said.

“It’s a pretty broad spectrum,” Ignagni said. “With only 15 (full-time) people in the company doing everything, we’ve got openings just about across the board.”

The $5.1 million tax credit takes effect Jan. 13 and ends Dec. 31, 2019.

The company will retain $1.3 million in existing payroll and pay an additional $5.1 million in taxes over that period.

The 60 jobs must remain filled through 2022, according to Connie Wehrkamp, a spokeswoman for Gov. John Kasich.

Synapse officials must also submit annual reports verifying the jobs remained filled. The credit also requires Synapse to remain in Oberlin through 2022.

The tax break was announced Monday by Kasich along with 11 other projects which are altogether slated to create 841 jobs and retain 2,093 more throughout the state.  The companies are expected to invest more than $128 million and create approximately $42 million in new payroll.

Reporter Evan Goodenow contributed to this report.

Contact Cindy Leise at 329-7245 or cleise@chroniclet.com.