Global pharmaceutical giant Pfizer is expanding its vaccine-manufacturing plant in Sanford, N.C., creating 40 new jobs there as the company prepares to produce new gene therapies built upon a technology first developed at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
The Lee County expansion’s focus on gene therapy involves a potentially transformational technology for patients. The technology emphasizes onetime treatments that address the root cause of diseases caused by genetic mutation. The approach involves introducing genetic material into a patient’s cells that delivers a copy of a correct gene to compensate for a defective or missing gene.
“North Carolina is one of the few places in the country with the biotech resources to take an idea all the way from the lab to the manufacturing line,” state Gov. Roy Cooper said. “Pfizer’s investment in Lee County is a prime example of how North Carolina’s world-class universities and cutting-edge industries work together to move our state forward.”
Pfizer will invest $100 million in expanding its Sanford campus, which currently employs about 450 people.
“Pfizer is proud to further expand our presence in North Carolina, particularly as we build our leadership in gene therapy,” said Lynn Bottone, site leader at Pfizer Sanford. “We look forward to the next phase of this expansion as we build a clinical and commercial manufacturing facility.”
Gene therapy is an important area of focus for Pfizer. In 2016, the company acquired Bamboo Therapeutics, Inc., a privately held biotechnology company based in Chapel Hill focused on developing gene therapies for the potential treatment of patients with certain rare diseases related to neuromuscular conditions and those affecting the central nervous system. Pfizer also committed $4 million to support postdoctoral fellowships in North Carolina universities for training in gene therapy research.
“This is a perfect example of how placing innovation at the center of our university creates new opportunities,” said Carol Folt, chancellor of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “We are proud to be a part of the technologies, expertise and infrastructure that went into Bamboo Therapeutics and helped make this manufacturing expansion in Sanford possible. Gene therapy is a strength at Carolina, and we look forward to continue to help advance this industry.”
Pfizer will add a variety of jobs with this expansion, delivering a total payroll impact of more than $3.9 million each year to the community.
The expansion is supported by a $250,000 grant from the One North Carolina Fund. The One NC Fund provides financial assistance to local governments to help attract economic investment and to create jobs. Companies receive no money upfront and must meet job creation and capital investment targets to qualify for payment. All One NC grants require a matching grant from local governments.
In addition to state Commerce and the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina, other key partners in the project include the North Carolina General Assembly, the North Carolina Community College System, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the North Carolina Biotechnology Center, Duke Energy, Lee County, and the Sanford Area Growth Alliance.