FARGO — Aldevron is announcing a major expansion of its campus that will increase its biotechnology production capacity 10-fold, quintuple its warehouse space and create a research and development center.
The first phase of construction will begin in August on Aldevron’s 14-acre campus in southwest Fargo. The announcement comes less than 10 months after the firm opened its new $30 million, 70,000-square-foot headquarters, a milestone that coincided with Aldevron’s 20th anniversary.
The first of three planned new buildings, which altogether will occupy 189,000 square feet and connect to the existing building, is expected to be fully operational by the first quarter of 2021. All four buildings will be connected and ultimately will house more than 1,000 employees, according to Michael Chambers, Aldevron’s CEO and co-founder.
The three new buildings will be built “in the coming years,” Chambers said. No dollar estimate for the expansion project was available. The campus is located near the intersection of 40th Avenue South and 42nd Street South.
“This plan is designed to serve the biopharmaceutical industry with the world’s most advanced manufacturing platforms for gene and cell therapy,” Chambers said in a statement. “It is an honor for us to provide plasmids, gene-editing enzymes and other biologics to support clinical and commercial applications that our clients are leading.”
Biologic drugs are produced from living organisms or contain components of living organisms derived from human, animal or microorganisms through biotechnology. Plasmid DNA is a form of DNA that is the base material for use in research and clinical laboratories engaged in gene and cell therapy, gene editing and other fields.
In an email interview, Chambers said the expansion reflects the booming biotechnology and biopharmaceutical industries, where gene therapy and cell therapy are producing breakthrough treatments for diseases.
“The gene therapy field is moving fast and this requires continuous innovation,” he said. “The new campus and increased capabilities will give us the ability to innovate faster. Not only that, we will be better able to inspire, recruit and retain talent since we will need hundreds of people in the coming years.”
Aldevron now employees 301 in Fargo, 31 in Madison, Wisconsin, and 21 in Freiburg, Germany.
The expanded Fargo campus also will provide better space to train Aldevron’s workforce in a field that is rapidly advancing, with more and more therapies in the pipeline, Chambers said.
“The new campus will be transformative in how it empowers our clients to make genetic medicines for much larger populations,” he said. “There are a few approved gene therapy products for rare diseases that may have hundreds to a few thousand patients.
“Soon our field will be producing gene and cell therapies for more ‘garden variety’ conditions like heart disease,” he added. “Now we are talking about millions of patients. This will require much larger manufacturing platforms.”
As Aldevron grows along with the industry, its eventual Fargo campus workforce of more than 1,000 will put it in the same range as Microsoft, whose Fargo campus is a few blocks to the south. To develop that workforce, Aldevron is working with local universities.
Two years ago, privately held Aldevron announced that it has financial backing from TA Associates, a major private equity firm headquartered in Boston. That alliance, Chambers has said, was to enable Aldevron to “help us with the next step.”
Plans for Aldevron’s expansion also include 20,000-square-feet of offices to be added to its current building. A second building is a two-story administration building that will be connected to the manufacturing space via skyway.
As with its existing manufacturing space, all of the new production space will meet Good Manufacturing Practice standards, regulations promulgated by the Food and Drug Administration requiring drug manufacturers to ensure their products are “safe, pure and effective,” including eliminating contamination.
The third new building will be a center for research and development, technical operations and training.
The keys to managing rapid growth have been a commitment to fostering a culture of continuous improvement, Chambers said, and hiring good people whose efforts have made it possible.
“The work ethic in our part of the world is great and this has been key to managing growth,” he said. “We have also been joined by people from different parts of the country who have brought significant expertise. We could not grow this fast without diversity.”