North Carolina Booked $4 Billion in Bioscience-Related Investments, 4,800 Jobs in 2021
Even a second year of business interruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic couldn’t slow North Carolina’s bioscience juggernaut in 2021.
There were 34 recruitment and expansion announcements by life sciences and related companies during the year, representing almost $4 billion in investment and 4,800 jobs across the state, according to reports compiled by the North Carolina Biotechnology Center.
Highlighting the employment plan announcements were 3,000 jobs to be added by life sciences manufacturers, 800 by contract research and testing companies and nearly 800 by gene- and cell-based therapy companies.
Leading the way was FUJIFILM’s blockbuster announcement of a $2 billion biopharmaceutical manufacturing plant in Holly Springs that will bring 725 jobs paying an average salary of just under $100,000 a year.
Upon completion of the initial phase, the facility will be the largest end-to-end cell culture production plant in North America. It’s also the largest single life sciences investment in the state's four-decade history of growing the sector.
FUJIFILM Diosynth Biotechnologies (FDB), a Morrisville-based subsidiary of the FUJIFILM Corp. of Tokyo, will operate the new facility. FDB is an industry-leading contract development and manufacturing (CDMO) business that offers services to pharmaceutical companies such as cell-line and process development, stability testing, the development and manufacturing of clinical-trial drugs as well as commercial drug manufacturing.
The company’s site-selection choice “shows once again that North Carolina is a world-class location for the most innovative biotech companies in the industry,” said Gov. Roy Cooper. “Since FUJIFILM Diosynth Biotechnologies already operates a facility in our state, they have complete confidence this new plant will succeed as well, thanks to North Carolina’s skilled workers, our commitment to workforce training, and the growing strength of our life science industrial cluster.”
The company said when its new facility begins operations in the spring of 2025 it will conduct large-scale cell culture manufacturing of bulk drug substance using eight 20,000-liter (5,283-gallon) bioreactors for growing mammalian cells. Plans for the site include the potential to expand and add up to 24 more of those bioreactors, based on market demand.
In addition to drug substance manufacture, the facility will also provide commercial-scale, fully automated fill-finish, and assembly of a variety of syringes, and equipment for automatic packaging and labeling.
“Identifying a place to locate a biomanufacturing project of this magnitude hinges on the availability of highly trained people, a top-notch business climate, and a hyper-collaborative ecosystem, all within a strong, diverse life sciences cluster. And that place is North Carolina,” said Bill Bullock, senior vice president of economic development and statewide operations with the North Carolina Biotechnology Center, which provided technical and other support to the state’s recruitment team.
Those and other winning attributes, including an affordable cost of living and good quality of life for employees, spurred other new bioscience investments across the state in 2021:
- Amgen, a California-based biopharmaceutical company that pioneered the use of recombinant DNA technology four decades ago, will build a $550 million manufacturing plant in Holly Springs. The facility will create 355 jobs from 2025 through 2029, at an average wage of $119,510.
- Thermo Fisher Scientific, a global supplier of products and services that support the life sciences, announced projects in three North Carolina towns that will collectively bring over $350 million in investments and nearly 700 jobs. The company will build a new manufacturing facility in Mebane that will produce critically needed laboratory pipette tips for use in disease research and diagnostic tests, including COVID-19 tests. The $192 million investment will create 150 to 200 jobs. Thermo Fisher will also invest $154 million to expand its contract drug manufacturing facilities in Greenville, creating 290 jobs, and will expand its lab equipment manufacturing and cold-storage warehouse facilities near Asheville, bringing 200 jobs.
- Abzena, a global British CDMO, will build a $213 million biomanufacturing plant in Sanford, creating 325 jobs. The site will primarily make mammalian cell-based biologics for customers involved in Phase 3 clinical trials and those already involved in commercial sales.
- CARsgen Therapeutics, a Shanghai-based cancer immunotherapy innovator, will invest $157 million to establish a Durham site that will employ 200 people by the end of 2026 in the production of chimeric antigen receptor T cell (CAR-T) therapies for cancer.
- Invitae, a medical genetics testing company based in San Francisco, will invest $114.6 million to bring its wide-ranging medical testing capability to Morrisville, creating 374 jobs.
- Biogen, a top-25 global biopharmaceutical company, will invest $200 million in a new facility on its Research Triangle Park (RTP) campus to support clinical production for its gene therapy pipeline. The expansion will add 90 jobs to its RTP workforce of about 1,900 people.
- Jaguar Gene Therapy of suburban Chicago will invest $125.4 million and create 200 jobs between 2024 and 2028 at a new RTP manufacturing facility. The jobs will pay an average annual salary of $92,530.
- Syngenta, the global agriculture giant, decided to keep its North American Crop Protection headquarters in Greensboro, where it will invest $68 million to renovate aging labs and build a new office building to support its 650 employees and 100 contract workers.
- West Pharmaceutical Services, a manufacturer of drug-packaging and delivery components, will invest $19 million and add 90 jobs to expand its production capacity in Kinston, where it employs 425 people.
- New York-based Nature’s Value Inc., a global contract vitamin and dietary supplements manufacturer, announced in August that would create more than 183 new jobs in Forsyth County, expanding its manufacturing operations to Winston-Salem with an investment exceeding $19 million.
- Gilead Sciences, a California-based biopharmaceutical company, will invest up to $5 million to establish a 275-employee business services and information technology hub in Wake County.
- American Fuji Seal International, a branch of Japan’s Fuji Seal International, will invest $52 million and create 101 jobs at a new facility in Hickory that will manufacture packaging materials for pharmaceuticals.
- Cambrex Corp., a contract manufacturer of small-molecule therapeutics with facilities in High Point and Durham, will invest $30 million and hire 78 more employees to expand its production capabilities in High Point.
- Raybow USA, a custom chemical research and development company, will invest $15.8 million over the next five years to expand its headquarters and R&D facilities in the Western North Carolina city of Brevard, adding 74 employees to its current workforce of 26.
- Science 37, a clinical research and testing company with dual headquarters in Culver City, Calif., and Raleigh, will consolidate its headquarters in Morrisville, a $1.5 million investment that will create 250 jobs in the next several years.
- EnviroFlight, an alternative protein company based in northern Kentucky, will relocate its headquarters to Apex and install a new research and development facility there. The 30,000-square-foot center will create 30 to 40 new jobs dedicated to producing protein from black soldier fly larvae as a sustainable additive to animal feed.