A Plattsburgh firm has seen its vision for future growth become reality, which will translate into expansion and more jobs.
SterRx CEO Dr. Gary Hanley said they have brought in an equity partner that specializes in distribution of the type of products his company manufactures.
“Our big news is that we have just signed a national distribution contract,” he said. “It is a long-term contract for the products that we make to be distributed.”
The contract calls for SterRx to manufacture hundreds of millions of dollars worth of product over the next several years.
That figure could ultimately reach $400 million a year from the Plattsburgh facility, Hanley said.
Toward that end, SterRx expects to ramp up to 60 to 80 employees working one shift five days a week starting early next year.
The company currently has 30 employees and consultants in Plattsburgh.
“Our goal is to have three shifts running,” Hanley said. “That would be between 150 and 200 people employed.
He said that is likely three years out, though it could take place faster than that.
“If we can add a shift a year, that would be wonderful,” Hanley said.
The new equity partner, which Hanley would not reveal at this time, is already involved in national distribution of pharmaceutical products and medical supplies, primarily to hospital groups.
He said it has agreements with nearly 2,000 hospital groups across the country.
“This company has an impressive background in supply chain. Its claim is that it can provide their products anywhere in the United States within four hours,” Hanley said.
SterRx is simply enhancing some of the products sold by that company, Hanley said.
“Our technology is highly desirable,” he said. “We’re the only one offering this technology in this market.”
SterRx has already installed five blow-fill-seal machines, valued at between $1 million and $5 million each.
The machines use pharmaceutical-grade resin beads to form containers, which are filled with pharmaceutical compounds and then sealed, all within a sterile environment in the machine.
Those five production lines are capable of producing about 110 million units per year.
Since the equipment is already in place, it will just require some new equipment to meet the demands of the distributor.
“We are looking at filling out our current equipment. That would be new tooling and packaging equipment for the new products we will be producing,” Hanley said.
The deal is the product of SterRx’s decision to move into the 503B compounder market after passage of the Drug Quality and Security Act two years ago.
It covers outsourcing facilities that compound pharmaceutical products for wider distribution and now requires that those firms comply with U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulations.
That measure was the result of a fungal meningitis outbreak that led to the deaths of 64 people in 2012, which was eventually tied to a 503B compounder based in Massachusetts, New England Compounding Center.
SterRx saw the opportunity their technology would offer and started working toward certification under the new stricter regulations.
The contract was finalized within a matter of about three months, which, he said, was a fortuitous confluence of circumstances.
Hanley said he already knew the CEO of their new partner. That company was already moving into the 503B market when their supplier had issues with the FDA that resulted in product recalls.
That led the company to search for a new potential supplier, and SterRx, with its state-of-the-art production equipment and expertise, fit the bill.
The company looked to SterRx because it was already Current Good Manufacturing Process compliant, Hanley said. All they needed to do is switch to a different product to use in their containers.
“Doing all the validation work and meeting CPMG regulatory levels took us two years, and that was pretty quick,” Hanley said.
“Now it’s time to start making some product and sending it out the door,” he said.
SterRx Vice President of Manufacturing Terry Wiley said they are starting to interview for the first wave of new jobs. Much of that work is being done with the help of OneWorkSource.
“They have been very good to work with,” Wiley said.
About 85 percent of their current employees are former Wyeth/Pfizer workers, he said. The jobs they offer pay well, with many employees having college degrees and pharmaceutical industry experience.
SterRx is also working with SUNY Plattsburgh and CCC for internships to create a future workforce, Wiley said.
“We are looking for talented people coming out of our educational institutions,” he said.
“We should be a good employer for a number of years to come.”
FORMER PFIZER SITE
SterRx is an offshoot of Malone-based Asept Pak in Malone. It opened at 141 Idaho Ave. on the former Plattsburgh Air Force Base in 2013.
The 50,000-square-foot facility was formerly home to a Wyeth/Pfizer clinical-supply operation. Hanley said they lease the facility, with a purchase option in place.
“Our intent is that we will execute our option sometime in the future,” he said
Hanley said the new agreement is good for all of the parties involved and that it validates the decision the SterRx team made to pursue the opportunity provided by the new 503B regulations.
“It was good to see the potential was realized and we made some good decisions,” he said.
“It’s nice to see we have a viable high-tech pharmaceutical business here in the North Country.”
Written by Dan Heath, Press-Republican, December 13, 2015