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Contract Manufacturing a 'SuperScieNCe' for NC's Future

photo courtesy of NovoNordisk

By Barry Teater, NCBiotech Writer

The next time you reach into your medicine cabinet, go to the drugstore for a prescription or check into a clinic for a medical procedure, there’s a good chance someone in North Carolina made that cure for what ails you.

North Carolina is one of the world’s leading centers for the manufacture of biologics, pharmaceuticals, vaccines, diagnostics, medical devices and related products. More than 100 company sites across the state make these healthcare products, employing 24,300 people. 

Two dozen of these sites, employing 9,200 people, devote their manufacturing capacity to serving pharmaceutical, biopharmaceutical and medical device companies on a contract basis, sparing these clients the substantial time, cost and limited flexibility of building, equipping and staffing their own production facilities.

A study of the state’s life science landscape lists contract manufacturing as one of six emerging life science technology sectors likely to flourish in North Carolina’s future. The Battelle Technology Partnership Practice identified the areas based on its analysis of innovation, research and industry activity among the state’s universities and companies. The North Carolina Biotechnology Center has labeled the six “SuperScieNCe.”

North Carolina’s contract manufacturers come in a wide range of sizes and provide a variety of services required to develop, formulate, analyze, test, produce and package products for clinical trials or commercial sale. Here is a sampling of the state’s roster: 

  • Hospira, the world’s largest provider of injectable drugs and infusion technologies, is adding 200 jobs at its production facility in Rocky Mount, where it employs about 2,400 people. The company is completing a three-year, $85 million expansion and upgrade of the facility and said its investment in the site could grow to $270 million during the next decade.
  • Patheon, headquartered in Durham, operates 12 commercial-scale production facilities around the world that employ 8,000 people. The company will add 488 jobs to its sterile-fill facility in Greenville by 2019 as part of a planned $159 million expansion. 
  • Cirrus Pharmaceuticals, an analytical testing facility, recently added a 700-square-foot suite for clinical-scale drug manufacturing at its site in Morrisville, which employs about 55 people. The expansion will help its customers begin clinical trials faster with complete in-house services. 
  • Exela Pharma Sciences of Lenoir operates a 20,000-square-foot sterile manufacturing plant that produces injectable and ophthalmic pharmaceutical products. The company is completing an $8.5 million expansion that will boost employment to about 100 people.
  • PharmAgra Labs of Brevard performs contract R&D in organic and medicinal chemistry and provides contract manufacturing of active pharmaceutical ingredients for clinical trials and low-volume commercial use. 
  • Medical Murray specializes in the design, development and contract manufacturing of unique and complex catheter systems, permanent implants, and bioabsorbable components for less invasive vascular, urologic and surgical applications. The company broke ground in 2015 for a new facility that will double its footprint in Charlotte.
  • AAIPharma Services of Wilmington and its sister company, Wisconsin-based  Cambridge Major Laboratories, together have nearly 800 employees at seven sites in the U.S. and Europe which provide comprehensive product development, analytical testing and manufacturing services. AAIPharma operates a contract manufacturing facility for oral solid-dose drugs in Wilmington and an analytical services lab in Durham.
  • Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies of Morrisville is a contract developer and manufacturer of recombinant biopharmaceuticals including proteins, vaccines and monoclonal antibodies, It broke ground in 2015 for a 62,000-square-foot facility in Morrisville to house its bioprocess R&D groups. The company’s facilities in North Carolina, Texas and England employ about 1,000 people.   

North Carolina’s health-related manufacturing companies benefit from a highly skilled workforce which is bolstered by specialized education and training.

NCBioImpact, a public-private consortium of community colleges, universities and the state’s bioscience businesses, produces subsidized workforce training programs tailored to industry specifications.

The training is delivered in state-of-the art, industry-simulated facilities at the Biomanufacturing Training and Education Center (BTEC), the largest hands-on biomanufacturing training facility in the world; several community college BioNetwork Centers throughout the state; and  the Biomanufacturing Research Institute and Technology Enterprise (BRITE).

BTEC is on the campus of North Carolina State University in Raleigh, and BRITE at North Carolina Central University in Durham.

More information about North Carolina's life science manufacturing capabilities is available from NCBiotech's Bioscience Industrial Development group.

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