CLAYTON – Grifols, the global biotherapeutics company with major operations in North Carolina, announced today that it will begin production of a plasma-derived treatment to battle the Ebola virus for the country of Liberia at its flagship Clayton manufacturing site.

It is a preventative effort to reduce the spread of Ebola in Liberia. Government dignitaries from Liberia and leaders from Grifols headquarters in Spain shared details of the joint humanitarian effort during a gathering at the Clayton campus. Grifols employees who have visited 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.

Grifols attacking the epidemic

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

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 funding and technical support to set up a modular plasmapheresis facility for Liberia’s ministry of health, in Monrovia, to process plasma donations from Ebola survivors.

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.

Grifols photo

Grifols employees are on the ground in Liberia

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.

(C) N.C. Biotech Center