$2.9B in life science projects across NC so far in 2021 are setting stage for big jump in jobs

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by Rachyl Jones, NCBiotech Writer

North Carolina has seen consistent life sciences growth over the years, by offering a talented workforce, collaborative ecosystem and plenty of funding opportunities to businesses considering the state for their headquarters and expansions.

Despite the pandemic, 2020 clocked major numbers. And while the turn of the year to 2021 suggested a symbolic return to normalcy, North Carolina has surpassed all expectations in its life sciences announcements, approaching 2020’s excellent full-year numbers in only these first five months.

Not only has N.C. welcomed new sites for out-of-state businesses, but it has also secured significant reinvestments in the state’s existing companies. And BioAssets, or companies aiding the life sciences, have seen noteworthy growth as well.

Since the beginning of 2021, N.C. has hailed 15 announcements, reflecting $2.9+ billion in investment and the creation of 2,686 life sciences jobs, excluding jobs created in the construction and other related workforces. At this time last year, the state had seen five announcements bringing about 20% of this year’s investments. At this time in 2019, N.C. had seen eight announcements.

Below are the major life sciences business announcements in 2021 … so far, starting with the most recent:

  • Shanghai-based cell therapy company CARsgen announced a $157 million site located in Durham, employing 200 people. It will include an R&D lab and manufacturing facility, which will produce its cancer-fighting chimeric antigen receptor T cell (CAR-T) therapies. Though North Carolina offered less funding than other states, CARsgen selected it nonetheless for its unique specialty in how cell- and gene-based therapy can cure cancer. The investment is expected to increase the state’s gross domestic product by $1 billion.

EnviroFlight, an alternative protein innovator, is relocating its headquarters to Apex and developing a new R&D facility alongside it, with a $9 million value. The company chose this location after completing its regulatory safety trials at North Carolina State University. The facility is expected to open more than 30 jobs in the area.

Invitae site in Morrisville
Invitae site in Morrisville. — Invitae photo
  • San Francisco-based medical genetics giant Invitae communicated a $114.6 million, 374-job investment in Morrisville. The company provides genetic testing for a variety of medical conditions, including cancer, neurological disorders and cardiovascular disorders. The location will include an office complex and lab.
  • The contract development and manufacturing organization (CDMO) Abzena will supply Sanford with a new biomanufacturing site, which will produce its Phase 3 mammalian biologics. The company will finance the project with $213 million, creating 325 jobs. Abzena selected North Carolina for its growing biomanufacturing ecosystem.
  • Global agriculture company Syngenta promised $68 million in upgrades for its North American Crop Protection headquarters in Greensboro. The upgrades will support renovated lab and office spaces for its 650 employees. This reinvestment marks a continued interest in the Piedmont Triad as a leading agricultural technology region.
  • FUJIFILM Corporation, known for its imaging technologies, disclosed Holly Springs for its $2 billion biomanufacturing site, adding 725 jobs to the North Carolina market. The facility will conduct cell culture manufacturing for mammalian cells, which will be the largest end-to-end production facility of its kind in North America. The global giant chose North Carolina for its highly trained workforce, hyper-collaborative business climate, and strong, diverse life sciences ecosystem. This is the largest single life sciences investment North Carolina has seen in four decades.
  • Raybow U.S.A, a custom chemical R&D segment of Raybow Pharmaceutical, released plans for a $15.8 million expansion in its North American headquarters, located in Brevard. The project will create 74 jobs with Raybow, nearly tripling its current workforce. The expansion will include new technology, lab space, and specialized equipment to support its focus in custom synthesis and contract research services.
  • After hiring an additional 147 employees last year, Thermo Fisher Scientific has opened the door for 200 more positions at its Ashville location to meet the growing demand for the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine’s low-temperature freezers. The company has not reported any brick-and-mortar investment associated with that employment growth.
  • Rendering of Biogens RTP gene therapy facility.Rendering of Biogens RTP gene therapy facility. — Biogen photoTop-25 global pharmaceutical company Biogen confirmed a $200 million project, adding 90 more workers to its 1,900 head count presently in RTP. The facility will focus on clinical production of its gene therapy pipeline.
  • West Pharmaceutical Services, which manufactures drug-packaging and delivery pieces, announced the $19 million expansion of its Kinston plant, introducing 90 new jobs. New upgrades include presses, mold trim and dies, and other rubber-manufacturing equipment.
  • Biopharmaceutical researcher Gilead Sciences, Inc. revealed a $5 million investment in a Wake County business services and information technology center. The global company selected North Carolina because of its skilled hiring pool. The site will carry out financial, human resources and information technology services, employing 275 talented workers.
  • American Fuji Seal, a branch off of Japan’s Fuji Seal International, has dedicated $52 million for a new site in Hickory. As a BioAsset, the company will support the life sciences industry in manufacturing packaging materials, and it will add 101 new jobs to the area.
  • Gene therapy giant Adverum Biotechnologies will build an $83 million manufacturing site in Durham, employing 202 workers. The location was selected with additional expansions in mind, specifically the company’s future manufacturing needs. RTP’s viral vector manufacturing strengths underlined the area with opportunity.
  • Two other companies – Aurobindo in Durham and Alcami in Wilmington – also reported growth plans, without disclosing employment increases.

“We are excited to welcome these new companies to North Carolina and harness the opportunity to further expand NC’s stance as a top location for biopharma manufacturing, contract research & testing, and the life sciences more broadly,” says Laura Rowley, Ph.D., director of life science economic development at the North Carolina Biotechnology Center. “Through the creation of rewarding and meaningful career opportunities, the development of life-saving therapeutics, and genuine community engagement, these announcements have the potential for transformational impact.”

This year’s 15 announcements in five months pursues 2020’s impressive full-year array of 21 announcements. Last year, North Carolina recorded $3+ billion of investments, creating 4,800+ life sciences jobs.

Below are significant life sciences business announcements in 2020:

  • Pharmaceutical leader Eli Lilly joined RTP with a $474 million, 462-job facility.
  • Audentes Therapeutics, an Astellas company, invested $110 million in a 209-job gene therapy facility in Sanford.
  • Nestle Therapeutics funded an $80.5 million gene therapy manufacturing facility in Durham.
  • Early-detection cancer diagnostics company GRAIL unveiled plans for a $100 million, 398-employee site in RTP.
  • Biotalys NV, food and crop protection trailblazer, moved its headquarters to RTP with a $66 million price tag.
  • Pharmaceutical and chemical manufacturer Grifols expanded its Clayton facility with a $352 million investment and 398-job promise.
  • MedPharm, a CDMO, added histology and microbiology suites, as well as space for pre-formulation and formulation development services in its Durham location. No announcement yet on investment or jobs.
  • Biotechnology innovator Biomason announced the addition of a brick-and-mortar headquarters to its existing business in RTP, creating 75 more jobs.
  • Beam Therapeutics supported an $83 million, 200-job gene therapy site in the Triangle.
  • BioAgilytix, a bioanalytical lab, presented expansion plans for a $61.5 million, 878-job global headquarters in Durham.
  • Pharmaceutical giant Merck announced the addition of 100 positions for its Durham vaccine manufacturing facility.
  • Medical technology pioneer ApiJect Systems invested $787 million in 650-job site in RTP.
  • Biomanufacturing and pharmaceutical contract manufacturing company KBI Biopharma announced a $150 million, 200-job expansion in RTP.
  • Huvepharma, which specializes in pharmaceuticals and feed additives, planned a $1.9 million, 10-job expansion in Maxton.
  • Global science leader Thermo Fisher Scientific revealed a $500 million, 500-job expansion in Greenville.
  • Rare disease gene therapy developer Taysha Gene Therapies financed a $75 million, 201-employee manufacturing location in Durham.
  • Leading Italian pet nutrition company Farmina Pet Foodsclor announced a $28.5 million investment to establish a North American headquarters in the Rockingham County community of Reidsville that will create 129 jobs.
  • Consumer goods behemoth Clorox announced a $7.5 million expansion in Durham that will result in 158 jobs for people working on its supplements and other health products. The company will establish a new R&D facility and expand corporate operations for Better Health and Burt’s Bees, which currently employs more than 500 people at its headquarters in Durham and a manufacturing facility in Morrisville.
  • Radiation protection company Wolf X-Ray is investing $4.5 million in Rocky Mount and creating 68 jobs.
  • GNT USA, the U.S. subsidiary of a Dutch manufacturing company, says it is putting $30 million into a food processing facility in Gastonia and adding 40 workers.
  • Oerth Bio, a young crop protection and crop health ag biotech company, announced that it is expanding its Durham footprint.

In 2020, N.C. racked up a sizable collection of life sciences expansions, increasing the workforce even during the largest global recession in recent memory. On top of this, 2021 brought an invigorated spirit of collaboration and innovation, nearly meeting 2020’s investment total in less than half the time.

“While North Carolina has long been recognized for its leadership in the life sciences, the current growth serves as a testament to this strength,” says Rowley.

If this trend continues, N.C. will see a $7 billion investment from life sciences companies by the end of this year, alongside almost 4,000 more job openings.

“The overall investment and number of high-quality jobs these projects will be creating will certainly benefit the state,” says Christopher Chung, chief executive officer of the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina. The billions of dollars these projects circulate through the state could greatly increase N.C.’s gross domestic product, and the new workforce’s high salaries contribute to state and local taxes.

“The list of diverse and innovative life sciences companies choosing North Carolina in 2020 and so far in 2021 shows that we are a state known for forging new technologies and therapies — both in developing and manufacturing products. That enhances our strong position as a leading life sciences cluster,” says Chung. “In addition, major announcements by global companies, including FUJIFILM Diosynth Biotechnologies’ planned $2 billion, 725-job cell-culture production facility in North Carolina, demonstrate the state can deliver the workforce and other resources to support such large-scale investments.

Original Source: WRAL TechWire