Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer Inc. plans to invest $100 million in its Sanford operations as part of a push into gene therapy, officials said Monday.
The effort builds on a technology developed at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and will create 40 jobs in Sanford.
“Pfizer is proud to further expand our presence in North Carolina, particularly as we build our leadership in gene therapy,” Lynn Bottone, site leader at Pfizer Sanford, said in a statement. “We look forward to the next phase of this expansion as we build a clinical and commercial manufacturing facility.”
Preliminary work on the expansion and initial hiring have already begun. The 230-acre campus employs about 450 people, reports the N.C. Biotechnology Center.
Gene therapy is a potentially transformational technology for patients that involves highly specialized, one-time treatments to address the root cause of diseases caused by genetic mutation. The technology involves introducing genetic material into the body to deliver a correct copy of a gene to a patient’s cells to compensate for a defective or missing gene.
Last year, Pfizer acquired Bamboo Therapeutics Inc., a privately held biotechnology company 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.
“We are excited that Carolina’s research will improve lives and create jobs for North Carolinians,” UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Carol Folt said in a statement. “This is a perfect example of how placing innovation at the center of our university creates new opportunities. 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 is also expanding a drug-manufacturing facility in Rocky Mount that it acquired from Hospira in 2015. The $190 million project will add 65,000 square feet of sterile injectable facilities but will not create any new jobs. The plant employs about 300 people.
Gov. Roy Cooper visited Pfizer’s Sanford facility last week to take a tour and meet with the company’s senior leaders.
“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,” Cooper said in a statement. “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 qualified for a performance-based grant of $250,000 from the One North Carolina Fund, which provides state assistance matched by local governments to help attract economic investment and create jobs. Companies receive no money upfront and must meet job and investment targets to obtain payment.