ABEC Brings $11M, 250-Job Biotech Products Factory to Wilson

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Governor Roy Cooper announced today that ABEC, a Pennsylvania-based global provider of specialized products and services for biomanufacturing companies, will invest $11 million by the end of 2024 and hire some 250 people at a Wilson production facility.

Founded in 1974, the privately held Bethlehem, Pa., company has maintained global leadership in delivering engineered process solutions and services for biomanufacturing companies in North Carolina and beyond.

ABEC systems have been adopted globally to produce a wide range of transformational products including vaccines, antibodies, recombinant proteins, and gene therapies.

The Wilson site, in an existing facility in the Wilson Corporate Park, will give ABEC a centralized access point to supply products to North Carolina’s fast-growing “large molecule” biomanufacturing community, and to similar companies around the world. Biomanufacturing involves a different set of tools from those used in chemical-based “small molecule” pharmaceutical manufacturing.

ABEC’s focus is on providing specialized “single-use” systems, stainless steel equipment, and process development services to biotech companies. It also has facilities in Springfield, Mo., Shanghai, and two in Ireland.

“Biomanufacturers that must operate at the highest levels of precision and quality choose North Carolina time and time again,” said Cooper. “Biotech is a statewide industry, and ABEC will find the technical expertise and outstanding workforce they need in Wilson County.”

ABEC designs, manufactures, and installs biomanufacturing equipment such as single-use custom bioreactor “bags” for cell culture, fermenters for microbial processing, and containers for general mixing and buffer storage. In contrast to other providers, ABEC allow customers to choose from nonproprietary, commercially available raw materials systems, allowing them to design for their own cell lines, space constraints, and operational processes.

Single-use systems like the ones offered by ABEC are an essential component of clinical and commercial manufacturing. This “plug and play” equipment allows customers to avoid complex sterilization procedures and rigid construction requirements. Although single-use equipment is disposed of after producing a single large batch of product, these systems often require less floor space, have a lower environmental impact including decreased wastewater toxicity, and can be put in place at a lower cost than traditional fixed stainless-steel equipment. This convenience and efficiency are increasingly pushing manufacturers to adopt single-use technology in making biopharmaceuticals.

“ABEC’s expansion in Wilson supports the long-term growth of the biopharmaceutical industry,” said Scott Pickering, ABEC CEO and Chairman. “The 50,000-square-foot facility will include state-of-the-art manufacturing equipment, attracting bioprocess expertise and technical talent to join the ABEC team.”

Wages for the new jobs will vary depending on the position. The average salary will be $52,613, about $5,000 a year over the current average wage in Wilson County of $47,863. The state and local areas will see an additional impact of more than $13 million each year from the new payroll.

"North Carolina’s deliberate focus to develop a workforce for the biotechnology industry continues to pay off in choices like ABEC’s decision today,” said North Carolina Commerce Secretary Machelle Baker Sanders. “As our First in Talent strategic plan makes clear, we will continue to invest in education and specialized training programs that make our state the number one place to do business in the country.”

ABEC’s project received a Job Development Investment Grant (JDIG) approved by the state’s Economic Investment Committee earlier today. Over 12 years, the project is estimated to grow the state’s economy by $455 million. Using a formula that takes into account the new tax revenues generated by the new jobs, the agreement authorizes the potential reimbursement to the company of up to $2,008,000, spread over 12 years. Payments for all JDIGs only occur following performance verification by the departments of Commerce and Revenue that the company has met its incremental job creation and investment targets. JDIG projects result in positive net tax revenue to the state treasury, even after taking into consideration the grant’s reimbursement payments to a given company.

“ABEC’s position as a critical player in the life sciences supply chain will benefit existing North Carolina companies and elevate the competitiveness of the state for new life sciences companies considering North Carolina as their home,” said Laura Rowley, Ph.D., vice president of economic development for the North Carolina Biotechnology Center. NCBiotech provided technical support in the recruitment of ABEC to North Carolina.

“ABEC’s announcement today, along with Thermo Fisher’s investment in a pipette tip manufacturing site in Mebane, and others, will allow for our state to play a leading role in confronting supply-chain issues here and around the world, Rowley added. “This expansion of ABEC’s capacity will address the growing demand for these essential materials for making medicines.”

In addition to NCBiotech, other key partners involved in the project included the North Carolina Department of Commerce, the Economic Development Partnership of N.C., the North Carolina General Assembly, the North Carolina Community College System, Wilson County, the City of Wilson and the Wilson Economic Development Council.

People involved in biomanufacturing have an opportunity to enroll in a hands-on training course in October at the Biomanufacturing Training and Education Center (BTEC) on the North Carolina State University campus in Raleigh. The course specifically targets single-use biomanufacturing processes of the sort ABEC is involved in.

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