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‘Gigafactory’ campus for vaccine production, hundreds of jobs coming to Triangle

DURHAM – A 1 million-square-foot campus, including a massive “gigafactory” to manufacture vaccine and therapeutic prefilled plastic injectors in the event of a national emergency such as the coronavirus pandemic, will be built in Durham County at a cost of nearly $800 million, the company behind the project disclosed Thursday.

The 185-acre campus will be off Davis Drive, and more than 650 jobs will follow the plant’s scheduled opening in 2022, with salaries ranging from $60,000 to $100,000.

ApiJect Systems, a medical technology firm focused on the pharmaceutical industry that is based in Connecticut, said it has received a $590 million loan from the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation to fund construction.

The firm is required to raise another $195 million from non-US government sources for the project, and it is working with Wall Street investment firm Jefferies Financial Corp. to raise the cash.

Called the ApiJect Gigafactory, the facility will include “the world’s largest pharmaceutical fill-finish facility,” capable of producing 8 million single-dose prefilled injectors a day, company officials said. It describes fill-finish as “the process of converting bulk drug volumes into individual injectable doses.”

“The beauty of what we are doing is there is no supply chain,” Executive Chairman Jay Walker said. “Almost all vaccines are packaged in one of two ways: glass vials or pre-filled glass syringes. There’s long international supply chains to make the vials – the stoppers, the crimps – or to order the the glass barrels and parts [for syringes].”

The Triangle was chosen after a nationwide search, Chief Executive Franco Negron said in a statement.

“In the end, RTP is a community with a strong pharmaceutical presence, a highly skilled workforce and ready access to regional and nationwide transportation networks, among a long list of positives,” Negron said.

The region already is home to several vaccine and biotech manufacturing facilities, including Seqirus in Holly Sprints, Grifols in Johnston County and a planned Eli Lilly plant. The area also features one of the nation’s largest biotech industry hubs.

ApiJect noted that “the U.S. Government has the right to reserve as many of the Gigafactory’s lines necessary to respond to any national health emergency, such as the COVID-19 pandemic or any similar future event. The Gigafactory will also fill and finish other critical medicines for commercial pharmaceutical clients when not providing products for national health security.”

The plant will have the capability of packaging up to 15 drugs simultaneously and will use materials from a supply chain sourced 100% in the US, the firm noted.

“Everything is made in North Carolina – the needles, the plastic that is involved. All this is done in one process,” Walker said. “All you need is the drugs.”

But the device must first be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

ApiJect also is working with the government as part of  the vaccine development program known as Operation Warp Speed, having upgraded a site for production in Columbia, S.C.

Original Article Source: WRAL TechWire