CHELMSFORD — Part of a billion-dollar health and life sciences industry has come to the city.
Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc., a $40 billion annual scientific services organization, inaugurated its new $160 million biomanufacturing facility at 220 Mill Road Tuesday morning. There, experts will develop resins to purify medicines that will help in the development of vaccines and biotherapeutics.
Officials estimate the new site could employ up to 250 people who will work in engineering, warehousing, manufacturing, procurement, site management, quality and other functions. Twenty-nine positions in Chelmsford are already open with more expected as they go online.
During a launch ceremony Tuesday morning, Jean Luo, vice president and general manager of purification and pharmaceutical analytics at Thermo Fisher Scientific, said she was “proud” to expand to Chelmsford.
Thanking Virginia Crocker Timmins, Select’s chief executive officer, and the rest of the board, Luo said Thermo Fisher has a “rich history” in the Boston area, having been here for more than a decade, with locations in Lexington, Bedford, and Plainville elsewhere.
“Chelmsford is an ideal location, especially as we consider how to quickly ramp up our production in the face of the pandemic,” Luo said in an interview. “It’s ideal from a location perspective, but also ideal from the broader community perspective given all the biotech companies that are based here.”
The facility covers an area of 85,000 square feet and aims to meet the increasing demand for biological materials used in vaccines and in the treatment of other diseases, including cancer, and to reduce the cost of these products so that patients get them faster.
With biologic therapies — such as cell gene therapy or mRNA used to make COVID vaccines — accounting for more than 40% of the new drug market, Luo said it is vital for Thermo Fisher to continue its work in this field, right in Chelmsford. In the past two years, the company has contributed to more than 12 billion COVID vaccines and provided “critical raw materials” for many approved treatments, she said.
Although she couldn’t provide details on the production volume, Luo said Chelmsford will allow them to “triple the production capacity”.
City Manager Paul Cohen told guests during the ceremony that the new development will promote “economic stability” and support dozens of families in the community. It’s also an opportunity to renovate existing vacant buildings in the city and reinvest in infrastructure, he said — Triton Systems, an economic development agency, just recently held its own ribbon-cutting event in the city.
“This is a significant day in Chelmsford to welcome the expansion of your major life sciences company, which has made such a significant investment in converting a aging office building into a world-class manufacturing facility,” said Cohen. “This is an opportunity for the City of Chelmsford to further promote our Route 129 corridor for office redevelopment and provide the opportunity for well-paying jobs and a strong partnership from the city to make a project like this a reality.”
Officials broke ground on the site 18 months ago, and the plant is now in the “qualification phase,” Luo said, meaning it’s technically in production.
Based in Waltham, Thermo Fisher serves more than 3,500 employees at more than 15 locations across the state. Luo said the Chelmsford site is part of the company’s $650 million effort to more efficiently deliver “cutting-edge technology” to customers.
“When COVID hit, it put a significant strain on the entire pharmaceutical supply chain, especially in the biological field,” Luo said. “This 85,000 square foot, $160 million facility will allow us to meet the rapidly growing demand for our processing materials used in the production of biological therapies. Our team is already working intensively on the development of these materials.”