Jaguar Gene Therapy becomes latest life sciences company to announce expansion in central NC

Tuesday, Jaguar Gene Therapy became the latest company to announce plans to either open or expand operations in the Triangle.

"When you look at it from a gene therapy perspective, there's significant value in owning this sort of capability," said COO Andrew Knudten.

The company will invest more than $125 million into a 174,000 square-foot manufacturing facility in Durham, located about 20 miles away from a laboratory they own in Cary. As part of the investment, they expect to create at least 200 jobs over the next several years.

"We're obviously excited to tap in to that immense talent pool that the Raleigh-Durham area has. And also, there's a lot of support functions that people don't really realize that North Carolina and Raleigh-Durham areas has to offer, in terms of engineering, construction, those sorts of things," Knudten said.

"There's a big buzz any time you have employment increases and opportunities," said Wake Tech President Scott Ralls.

It's been a plus for students at schools like Wake Tech, which is focusing its efforts to try and meet growing demand.

"Even before the announcements, we were planning for some significant new investments in the life sciences area. So we just moved into a new facility on our RTP campus, we will start the design for our new bio-pharma facility first of next year," Ralls said.

Analysts point to the Triangle's strong workforce, higher education, and coastal location as key drivers in attracting companies.

"(The) life science industry is such a great industry for economic mobility. There's such a wide, diverse group of jobs and job types within life sciences. From the very high end - research and innovation, research and development through production," said Michael Haley, the Executive Director of Wake County Economic Development.

"I spent 30 years in this industry and I remained in North Carolina. So I know firsthand the business leaders, the capabilities, and the caliber of people running the companies here, which attracts others to North Carolina. I also know the caliber of the talent that we have, and the partnerships - the private and public partnerships that are possible," added North Carolina Department of Commerce Secretary Machelle Baker Sanders.

Sanders, who was appointed by Governor Cooper in February, previously served as Vice President of Manufacturing and general manager of Biogen's largest manufacturing facility in RTP. In March, Biogen announced plans to build a new gene therapy manufacturing facility in RTP.

"(North Carolina's) core competencies happen to be innovation, it happens to be manufacturing, and it surely happens to be a place where people can live, enjoy, and have a good quality of life," said Sanders.

Haley anticipates more activity moving forward.

"Momentum builds on itself - this has always been a highly attractive market," said Haley.
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