Editor's note: Corrections have been made to this article to clarify Shire's expected FDA approval and manufacturing capacity.
SOCIAL CIRCLE, Ga. — The snip of the ribbon was more than six years in the making.
Shire PLC officials cut the ribbon Thursday to open their Stanton Springs manufacturing facility six years after Gov. Nathan Deal helped them break ground on a patch of dirt that was a dream for officials in Newton and neighboring counties, to create a high-tech career destination on the east side of Atlanta.
With Shire now producing immunoglobulin product to help patients with primary immune deficiency disorders, and Facebook building its Newton Data Center down the road, that dream is becoming a reality.
“This has been more than six years in the making,” Shire’s Georgia site head, Carlos Soto, said. And while it was first Baxter that announced plans to come to Stanton Springs before Baxter spun off its biopharmaceutical lines to a subsidiary known as Baxalta, which Shire then purchased, Soto said patients have remained “the ultimate inspiration for everything we do.”
Soto said the new plant will increase Shire’s capacity to produce plasma-based therapies by 30 percent annually once it’s fully functional.
“This facility was designed with our employees in mind,” he said. The facility was designed to use natural light where possible and to give employees a collaborative workspace.
Lest anyone get bogged down in the specifics of the building, patient services director Dayna Fladhammer kept visiting dignitaries riveted with the story of her four children, all of whom have primary immunodeficiency illnesses.
“We imagined a lot of things, but we never imagined that we would be rare-disease patients,” she said.
Fladhammer said the Shire employees who rung the room perform key services from the gleaming new facility.
“It’s really easy to forget about what really matters,” she said. “They serve the lives of children like mine.”
Adrian Murphy, a senior vice president and head of plasma operations at Shire, agreed.
“At Shire, our focus is rare diseases,” he said. “While many of us are busy living our lives, many of our patients are busy living their lives surviving.
“Our goal is to continue to fight for our patients. They never give up, and neither do we.”
Commissioner Pat Wilson, of the Georgia Department of Economic Development, said the Shire project “serves as a bookend to the governor’s eight years.”
Deal began working behind the scenes to lure Baxter in 2011, soon after becoming governor. Ground broke for construction of the Georgia BioScience Training Center, located across Shire Parkway from the company as part of the incentives to lure Baxter, in 2014.
“The biosciences industry is continuing to grow, and this is really a catalyst for it,” Wilson said.
“I think this is just the beginning and I’m excited about the innovative and life-changing technology that’s going to come out of this facility.”
Although the Shire plant is officially open, it’s still in growth mode. It continues ramping up toward full production and is expected to submit its albumin product for Food and Drug Administration approval later this year.
Shire is expected to file a submission later this year for Food and Drug Administration approval to manufacture its albumin product at the Georgia facility and to hire 300 more employees in late 2018 and early 2019.