HARMANS, Maryland — Paragon Bioservices announced an acquisition and partnership with two global drug developers only a few days after opening a new location close to BWI airport that will manufacture drugs that target rare diseases and genetic disorders.
Paragon will be acquired for $1.2 billion by Catalent Biologics, an innovator of drugs and drug delivery technologies, as well as partner with Sarepta Therapeutics, a developer of gene therapies, according to press releases.
Paragon last week said it expected to grow to over 500 employees with average salaries of $80,000 by the end of the year, according to a press release.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, R, spoke at the grand opening Thursday, praising Paragon for “life-changing and life-saving” work he said few companies in the world could match.
“We are experiencing an incredible economic resurgence, and one of the highlights is seeing homegrown businesses like Paragon Bioservices continue to invest and expand their footprint right here in our state,” Hogan wrote in a statement.
Paragon was founded by two employees in 1990 as a Johns Hopkins incubator, according to Juliette Bogus, who handles public relations for Paragon. Business incubators are designed to offer resources that will enable new startups to develop quickly.
Maryland’s local talent and infrastructure have helped Paragon and other early companies seeking capital to grow, said Paragon CEO and President Pete Buzy.
Paragon is directly supported by The More Jobs for Marylanders program — which gives tax incentives to manufacturing companies — passed by the state’s legislature in 2017.
Businesses like Paragon are success stories and achievements for the state, and show that “Maryland is moving in the right direction” of economic growth, said state Commerce Secretary Kelly Schulz.
In 2018, Paragon said it had 225 employees at its location in the University of Maryland, Baltimore Biopark, and was expected to almost double its workforce to 400 after construction of its new facility.
Now, Paragon employs more than 350, and plans to grow to over 500 between its Biopark and Anne Arundel locations by the end of the year.
With these kinds of high-paying projects, one hopes the business reaches expectations, but exceeding them is “a really good problem to have,” said Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman.
The new facility plans to use living human cells to produce 24 batches of viruses a year that can be injected into patients to correct genetic defects, Philip Wills, chief commercial officer of Paragon, said.
Paragon focuses on gene therapy and producing vaccines, cancer treatments and proteins engineered to fight disease, according to its website.
The drugs created will not be personalized, rather they will be able to treat “dozens if not hundreds of patients,” affected by rare diseases and genetic disorders, Wills said.
In the state of Maryland, more than 600,000 people are affected by rare diseases, Lydia Seiders, a volunteer ambassador for the Rare Action Network, said.
Without “access to life saving treatment, life-sustaining treatment, and research funding … we’re going to continue losing patients,” Seiders, a Maryland mother of two children with rare diseases, told Capital News Service.
Research funding is a three-step process, starting with diagnosing rare diseases among patients with age, gender, racial or genetic similarities, and then lab testing, before finally allowing patients to take experimental medication or treatments, Seiders said.
“You don’t have to be directly impacted,” or a part of the rare disease industry, or a politician, to support research into rare diseases, Seiders said. We are looking for “anyone that’s willing to take part.”
For anyone interested in getting involved with advocacy work for the rare disease community in Maryland, visit Raremd.org or reach Seiders at firstname.lastname@example.org.