By Lauren K. Ohnesorge
A just-approved medicine to protect those exposed to hepatitis A and measles validates both the hundreds of millions of dollars a company is funneling into a manufacturing site in Johnston County and a regional branding effort aimed at recruiting more pharma to North Carolina.
This week, Spanish biotech Grifols (Nasdaq: GRFS) announced the Food and Drug Administration had approved GamaSTAN, a product targeted for immunocompromised individuals exposed to certain deadly diseases.
GamaSTAN, according to Grifols spokeswoman Rebecca Barnes, will only be manufactured at its growing Clayton operation, which already has 1,650 employees and is the largest employer in Johnston County.
Barnes says GamaSTAN is “already being shipped out from the Clayton site.”
The treatment is made from human blood, and requires an exhaustive purification process.
In advance of the approval, the Spanish firm had already announced – and executed – expansion plans to process more plasma into treatments. In July of 2017, the company opened a 112,000-square-foot office building for more than 400 employees. In December, the company tripled the size of the site with the $9 million purchase of 467 acres. Grifols broke ground on new facilities in March.
Right now, it’s Grifols’ largest plasma manufacturing site. But with the latest expansion, which adds a $120 million purification and filling facility (part of a $320 million investment by 2022), it will be one of the largest plasma manufacturing plants in the world, Barnes says.
Both a new plasma filling facility and a new fractionation facility – which “breaks down” plasma into different proteins to transform into therapies for rare diseases such as hemophilia and immune deficiency – will be open and operational in 2022.
While the product won’t require new staff, Chris Johnson, economic development director for Johnston County, says it’s a big deal in terms of economic development.
“It add value and a longer shelf life,” he says, noting it’s also another talking point he can use in conversations with relocating and expanding companies considering sites in the region. “Any time that we’ve got companies creating new medicines that’s something to crow about.”
Johnston and surrounding counties such as Wilson and Pitt are trying to brand their region as North Carolina’s Biopharma Crescent – a name officials hope can stick in CEOs minds as they’re doing their site searches. And news like this validates that regional identity, he says.
Grifols has about 20,000 employees worldwide and reported sales topping about $5.3 billion last year.
Article source: Triangle Business Journal