Grifols Launches Global Ebola Attack In Liberia From Clayton Factory
Grifols, the global biotherapeutics company with major operations in North Carolina, announced today that it has begun production of a plasma-derived treatment to battle the Ebola virus for the country of Liberia from its flagship Clayton, N.C., manufacturing site.
It is a preventative effort to reduce the spread of Ebola in Liberia, and because of the realities of international travel, the world. Government dignitaries from Liberia and leaders from Grifols headquarters in Spain and North Carolina shared details of the joint humanitarian effort during a gathering at the Clayton campus. Grifols employees from North Carolina who have worked in Liberia for the project also participated.
Grifols is a global leader in the manufacture of plasma-derived medicines to treat and prevent rare diseases. Plasma, the "water" portion of blood, is rich in proteins, some of which have therapeutic value. Grifols uses a process called fractionation that separates proteins so they can be purified and sterilized for use in medicines that restore or replace missing proteins.
That's the basis for this Grifols project. The company is committed to showing that the plasma of people surviving Ebola can serve as a vaccine, because it contains antibodies effective at neutralizing three different strains of the virus. Grifols' research success in animals is now translating to humans. The theory is that treating patients who have Ebola with plasma collected from healthy people who have survived the disease may help strengthen their immune response to combat Ebola virus disease.
Grifols is leading the attack on Ebola
The Ebola virus became known in 1976, in Nzara (now South Sudan) and Yambuku (in the Democratic Republic of the Congo). However, a major Ebola outbreak occurred between 2014 and 2016 in Sierra Leone, Guinea Conakry and Liberia. The epidemic affected 28,616 people, killing 11,310
Though the epidemic has subsided, Grifols has been working with various Liberian organizations for the past few years, in an effort to stem the spread of Ebola. The company provided full funding and technical support for the past four years to set up a modular plasmapheresis facility for Liberia's ministry of health, in Monrovia, to process plasma donations from Ebola survivors.
More than 40 Grifols employees and Probitas Foundation (Grifols' philanthropic organization) professionals traveled to Liberia and volunteered in the plasma-collection process and community efforts. James Johnson, a Liberian national who led the Probitas Foundation team in Liberia, was part of today's Clayton event.
"Visiting Liberia brought the harsh realities of Ebola to life for our volunteers and the far-reaching impact it has on communities," he said. "I would like to thank them and all of the healthy men and women who chose to donate their plasma, for their contribution is helping overcome the stigma of the disease and supporting research in the development of a potential treatment option."
Wilhelmina Jallah, Liberian minister of health, provided an emotional address to the Clayton audience, outlining the devastation wrought by Ebola and the significance of Grifols' unusual recognition of the problem and the company's creative and aggressive willingness to address it. "We are extremely grateful for the possibilities afforded to us through our partnership with Grifols," she said. "Ebola was devastating during the 2014-16 outbreak and we welcome all work that might advance the efforts to prevent and treat this deadly disease."
Grifols fully financed this Ebola project, with the collaboration and support of the government of the Republic of Liberia, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the World Health Organization and several nongovernmental organizations. The company has donated more than $10 million to help tackle the global health threat posed by Ebola, in the face of rejection from other major corporate and governmental institutions the company approached for partnerships, in the hope that they would recognize, and respond to, the threat.
Investing in North Carolina
Grifols, already the largest private employer in Johnston County, is investing $210 million in two new facilities there to help meet the growing demand for medicines such as the Ebola therapy that are derived from human blood plasma. It also has a facility called its bioscience headquarters in Research Triangle Park.
Grifols broke ground in March for a $120 million purification and filling facility that will mainly produce immune globulin and factor VIII products. Immune globulin, a class of proteins in serum and immune system cells that function as antibodies, is used to treat various autoimmune, infectious and other diseases. Factor VIII, a blood protein involved in clotting, is used to treat the bleeding disorder hemophilia A.
The three-story, 150,000-square-foot facility, scheduled to begin operating in 2022, will also support the Clayton site’s $400 million plasma-fractionation plant that opened in 2014.
Construction of a new, $90 million fractionation facility is also under way. Scheduled to open in 2021, the facility will add 6 million liters of capacity per year.
Grifols’ two new facilities are the latest of several expansions that are making the Clayton site one of the world’s largest manufacturing plants for plasma-derived medicines.
In December 2017, Grifols tripled the size of its footprint there by purchasing 467 acres of land for future expansion. In July 2017, the company opened a 112,000-square-foot office building for more than 400 employees.
Investments in the site between 2017 and 2022 will total about $320 million, the company said. That’s in addition to about $760 million in capital expansions between 2011 and 2017.
Grifols established its presence in North Carolina in June 2011 when it acquired Talecris Biotherapeutics Holdings Corp. for $3.4 billion.
Close to 2,500 people work for Grifols throughout North Carolina. This includes about 1,650 people at the Clayton campus, 500 at corporate offices in Research Triangle Park, and 200 others, mostly at plasma-collection centers across the state.
Grifols expects to hire about 250 new employees in Clayton over the next dozen years. The company already is the largest employer in Johnston County.
Grifols has partnered with Johnston Community College on workforce training and participated in an April groundbreaking ceremony for a new Workforce Development Center at the college. The Center is a 30,000-square-foot educational and technical skills training facility with a focus on life sciences programming, business training and workforce development in biotechnology and other sciences.
Grifols, headquartered in Barcelona, Spain, has about 18,300 employees in 30 countries.
In 2017, its global sales exceeded 4.3 billion euros.