PLATTSBURGH — A company that expects to create up to 80 jobs over two years also received funding in the most recent Regional Economic Development Council awards.
SterRx was awarded $794,580 as a priority project for the North Country Regional Economic Development Council. The company is in the process of renovating the former Pfizer clinical supply packaging and warehousing facility at 141 Idaho Ave. on the former Plattsburgh Air Force Base in the Town of Plattsburgh.
Director of Manufacturing Terry Wiley said that money is a great help as they look to begin operation in the first quarter of 2014.
“We’re very appreciative of the support from the North Country Regional Economic Development Council for treating us as a priority project,” he said.
Wiley said Pfizer had invested heavily in the property and left most of that infrastructure in place, which has been a tremendous benefit as SterRx moves forward.
It includes advanced air filtration systems and temperature-controlled storage areas. With Pfizer downsizing, they have been able to acquire equipment from a number of that company’s other facilities as well, he said.
SterRx is an offshoot of Malone-based Asept Pak, which was founded by CEO Dr. Gary Hanley in 2005. That business, which specializes in pre-filled medical devices, has grown to 30 employees, 90 percent of whom are former Pfizer workers.
“The pool of trained people is absolutely phenomenal,” Hanley said. “We’ve been very fortunate to attract some tremendous people.”
Wiley said the combination of infrastructure and workforce is like a “perfect storm” scenario.
A partnership with Clinton Community College for training programs geared toward employment at SterRx is expected to provide a steady stream of potential employees, with internships available as well.
The facility will be divided almost evenly between manufacturing and warehousing. The firm is in the process of installing a sophisticated water system that allows production of the purified water needed for a pharmaceutical operation.
“That is a lifeline of our operation,” Wiley said.
SterRx and Asept Pak currently use outside labs for about 80 percent of their testing operations. The new facility will give them room for new testing and laboratory space to reverse that percentage.
There will also be space to allow them to formulate their own products to fill the containers they make. They have contracts in hand to produce drug products in Plattsburgh.
They are also working with other companies to develop additional products.
SterRx is installing five Rommelag blow-fill-seal machines in Plattsburgh. Each will have its own separate clean room to prevent product cross-contamination, with easy-to-clean floor and wall surfaces.
The machines use pharmaceutical-grade resin beads to form a tube that is then inflated in molds to the desired shape and size.
A mandrel then fills the container, and it is capped with a safety seal. The entire process takes place in the sterile environment within the machine, so there is no need to add preservatives.
The machines cost between $1 million and $5 million each. There is a combination of single-headed units that form, fill and seal one unit at a time, and dual-headed units, which allow for a second unit to be formed as the first one is filled.
The entire facility will be capable of producing 160 million units per year, officials said.
Wiley said they even have room to expand, with an additional two rooms that could each house a blow-fill-seal machine. That could be used for liquid products or even creams and ointments.
The first product is a line of single-dose ophthalmics that ensure each patient gets precisely the correct amount.
Hanley said they will continue the medical device operation in Malone.
“They are growing at 17 to 18 percent per year,” he said.
Hanley said while that part of the business got them off the ground, the growth projections for the pharmaceutical end are 400 percent higher. He said they are in the process of developing a contract with one of the 30 companies listed on the Dow Jones Industrial Average.
“I think the potential to max out this facility is even greater than what I initially believed,” Hanley said. “The reason for that is the technology is a unique technology.”
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