AveXis, Inc., a clinical-stage gene therapy company developing treatments for rare and life-threatening neurological diseases, will locate a new manufacturing center in Durham County creating 200 jobs, Governor Roy Cooper announced. The company is expected to invest approximately $55 million in the facility to produce potentially breakthrough therapies to address rare neurological genetic diseases.
"We're proud to be the place where cutting edge work will happen on gene therapies to fight disease and improve people's health," Gov. Cooper said. “North Carolina has long been a leader in the life sciences, and AveXis’ decision further enhances the state’s expertise in this emerging field.”
A Novartis company headquartered in Bannockburn, Illinois, AveXis’ initial product candidate, AVXS-101, is a proprietary gene therapy currently in development for the treatment of spinal muscular atrophy, or SMA, Type 1, the leading genetic cause of infant mortality.
“Our primary focus is to bring gene therapies to patients suffering from devastating rare neurological diseases – such as SMA, genetic amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and Rett syndrome – and continued investment in establishing our manufacturing infrastructure is a critical component to accomplishing this goal,” said Andrew Knudten, senior vice president of technical operations and chief technical officer at AveXis. “As a long-established biotechnology hub that attracts the nation’s top talent, Research Triangle Park was an optimal location to expand our footprint and complement our existing state-of-the art manufacturing site in the Chicagoland area.”
“It’s notable that AveXis has chosen to expand its manufacturing operations in North Carolina,” said Commerce Secretary Anthony M. Copeland. “Life science companies understand the many advantages our state offers manufacturers, particularly the investments North Carolina has made in education and workforce training for the biotechnology industry.”
The North Carolina Department of Commerce and the Economic Development Partnership of N.C. (EDPNC) led the state’s support for the company’s expansion.
AveXis will create a variety of positions in Durham County, including engineers, manufacturing and quality control personnel, and supply chain specialists. When all new positions are filled, the total payroll impact is anticipated to be in excess of $20 million annually.
AveXis’ expansion in Durham County will be facilitated, in part, by a Job Development Investment Grant (JDIG) approved by the state’s Economic Investment Committee earlier. Over the course of the 12-year term of this grant, the project will grow the state’s economy by an estimated $918.5 million. Using a formula that takes into account the new tax revenues generated by the new jobs, the JDIG agreement authorizes the potential reimbursement to the company of up to $2,232,000, spread over 12 years. State payments only occur following performance verification by the departments of Commerce and Revenue that the company has met its incremental job creation and investment targets. JDIG projects result in positive net tax revenue to the state treasury, even after taking into consideration the grant’s reimbursement payments to a given company.
Because AveXis chose to locate in Durham County, classified by the state’s economic tier system as Tier 3, the company’s JDIG agreement also calls for moving as much as $744,000 into the state’s Industrial Development Fund – Utility Account. The Utility Account helps rural communities finance necessary infrastructure upgrades to attract future business. Even when new jobs are created in a Tier 3 county such as Durham, the new tax revenue generated through JDIG grants helps more economically challenged communities elsewhere in the state.
The North Carolina Biotechnology Center also provided technical due diligence and funding support for this project through a jobs-based grant.
“AveXis is a valued employer in our region,” said Representative MaryAnn Black. “This new investment and expansion in the life science industry will create many good jobs for the people in our community and for North Carolinians.
“North Carolina’s ongoing commitment to the biotech and life science industry continues to pay dividends,” said Senator Mike Woodard. “Companies like AveXis know they will find the support they need at the state, regional, and local level when they choose to do business in North Carolina.”
Partnering with N.C. Commerce and the EDPNC on this project were the North Carolina General Assembly, the North Carolina Community College System, the North Carolina Biotechnology Center, Durham Technical Community College, Durham County, and the Greater Durham Chamber of Commerce.