HOLLY SPRINGS – Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies has picked Holly Springs for a huge new drug manufacturing facility and the creation of hundreds of jobs paying average salaries of more than $95,000.

News that the company was considering North Carolina for the plant emerged in January. Texas also was considered for the plant, according to North Carolina officials.

A rendering of the future Holly Springs facility as provided by Fujifilm.

“There was strong competition for this, but he ended up in the right place,” Gov. Roy Cooper said of Fujifilm Diosynth Chief Executive Martin Meeson, during a Thursday afternoon ceremony in Holly Springs.

Meeson called the planned plant “a huge milestone” for the company, which is part of Japan-based Fuijifilm. It will be the largest cell culture contract development and manufacturing facility in North America, he said.

“The excitement is all about the amount of patients we will be able to target and the medicines we can bring to them in this facility that we’re creating,” he said. “This project is about looking to the future and how we will deliver medicines over the coming decades.”

No timeline for groundbreaking for the plant has been set, Meeson said.

Fujifilm Diosynth already has a plant in Morrisville, which makes more than 60 products, including treatments for prostate cancer, hereditary diseases and a potential coronavirus vaccine created by Novavax. Former President Donald Trump visited the plant last year to tout his administration’s vaccine development program.

Meeson said the Holly Springs site will be similar to a plant in Denmark that produces vaccines and other therapies from the cellular level.

“We will start with a tiny little vial, [and] we will grow it up into 20,000-liter tanks, purify it, fill it into the appropriate format, package it, label it and give it back to our partners for distribution across the world,” he said.

Holly Springs’ water reuse system will help the company achieve its sustainability goals, and Fujifilm Diosynth’s partnerships with North Carolina colleges will offer a pipeline to a skilled workforce.

“We are really pleased to be supported by the many very strong academic institutions that are constantly training and producing that workforce for the future,” he said.

The Holly Springs plant will create about 725 jobs between 2024 and 2028, according to an agreement between the company and the state Department of Commerce.

The company will invest $1.5 billion by December 2024 and retain 637 jobs that already are based in the Triangle, according to the agreement. Another $500 million will be invested later.

“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 for the North Carolina Biotechnology Center.

Fujifilm decision to build new plant in Holly Springs is big win for NC life science industry

“Holly Springs, in particular, is a model community in how to develop and implement a long-term strategy to attract life-science jobs and investment, going back to Novartis’ decision to locate its vaccine campus there in 2006,” Bullock said.

The state’s Economic Investment Committee approved a Job Development Investment grant of up to $19.7 million for the project. Fujifilm Diosynth would have to meet annual hiring and investment targets over a 12-year period to get the money, which are refunds of employee withholding taxes. Officials estimated the plant would generate more than $160 million in state tax revenue during that period.

The company also was awarded a $2 million grant from the One North Carolina Fund, a discretionary cash-grant program that allows the governor to respond quickly to competitive economic development projects.

The jobs news was the second major one for North Carolina on Thursday. Earlier, Google announced it had selected Durham for a new cloud computing engineering hub. Some 1,000 jobs are expected to be added at that facility.

It’s the latest in a series of corporate investments disclosed already this year, many of which are life science oriented.

Triangle in contention for $2 billion biotech production plant from Fujifilm