Bio NC Continues to Boom as More Companies Settle and Expand
North Carolina’s biopharma business continues to expand at a rapid pace. Not only has the state’s hub in the Research Triangle Park continued to prosper, but companies are expanding in other areas across the state as well. In 2021, North Carolina is on track to surpass the total amount of new manufacturing investment in the state for the industry.
North Carolina and the RTP are consistently listed among the nation’s top 10 biopharma hubs. There are more than 730 life sciences companies that call North Carolina home. These companies provide jobs to more than 66,000 people. According to the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina, the state’s biotech sector has expanded 25% in the past decade.
That expansion continues as the state has seen a rise in the number of companies looking to relocate to the booming biohub. A biopharma cluster ranking composed by Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology News placed the state in the ninth position, with approximately 11.4 million square feet of lab space. The state ranked fifth in funding from the National Institutes of Health, according to the report.
In March of this year, NCBiotech, the Tar Heel State’s life sciences advocacy organization, reported that the state saw more than $2 billion in biomanufacturing expansions during 2020. And 2021 appears set to surpass that amount with ease.
Already this year there have been multiple companies that have announced the establishment, or a planned establishment of a physical toehold in North Carolina. One company alone is approaching that 2020 $2.3 billion number. In March, FujiFilm announced plans to build a $2 billion cell culture biopharmaceutical production facility in the town of Holly Springs. As BioSpace reported at the time, the facility is expected to be the largest in the state and is planned to become operational by 2025. The site, which will provide large scale cell culture manufacturing for bulk drug substance production, will complement an existing FujiFilm facility in nearby Morrisville.
According to the report, FujiFilm will invest the first $1.5 billion into the project by the end of 2024. The remaining $500 million will be invested in the site at a later date. When it’s open, the facility will employ about 725 people.
Also in March, Thermo Fisher Scientific announced plans to expand its Asheville, NC facility. That site is used to manufacture freezers used to store drugs, including the low-temperature freezers originally used to store the mRNA vaccines for COVID-19. According to an ABC report, Thermo Fisher announced the addition of 200 jobs in Asheville. In 2020, the company added 147 positions at the facility.
Following the March announcements, Abzena announced plans to open a $200 million manufacturing facility in Sanford, The site, which is the company’s sixth, will expand the company’s capabilities at delivering therapeutic products that require 2000L single use bioreactors. The new site is being designed to support the manufacturing of biologics for Phase III programs, as well as commercial availability, the company said. The site is expected to be operational in mid-2022.
When the Abzena facility opens, it is expected to create approximately 325 jobs.
One month after Abzena, several more companies announced plans to open facilities in North Carolina. China’s CARsgen Therapeutics announced plans to build a $157 million CAR-T manufacturing facility in Durham. The new site is expected to generate approximately 200 new jobs.
The N.C. facility will be CARsgen’s first in North America. The Durham site is a planned 37,000 square-foot manufacturing center that will be used for clinical and early-stage commercial manufacturing. Shanghai-based CARsgen has a broad pipeline of CAR T-cell product candidates that are being assessed for both solid and hematologic tumors.
Also in May, contract development and manufacturing organization Tergus Pharma announced plans to construct a 100,000 square-foot facility in Durham. The new site will replace the company’s existing facility in the Bull City and allow Tergus to conduct early phase research, drug development and testing on topical drugs.
In addition to office space, the new Tergus site will include research and development labs, as well as filling and packaging suites.
At the same time as the Tergus and CARsgen announcements, Connecticut-based real estate company Knighthead Funding, loaned more than $52 million to Equator Capital Management to support the buildout of a 245,000 square-foot life sciences campus in the Research Triangle Park. The space is expected to be occupied by sequencing company Invitae Corp. That company said the facility will employ up to 350 people and enable the company to meet growing demand for its genetic testing services.
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