Thermo Fisher Scientific said it will add 500 people to its workforce in and around Richmond, VA, through a $97 million expansion of clinical research operations it inherited when it completed its $17.4 billion acquisition of PPD in December.

Thermo Fisher cited growing demand for its clinical contract research organization (CRO) services by drug developers when they joined Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) to announce the expansion on Monday. The company said it plans to open three new bioanalytical labs totaling nearly 150,000 square feet of space over the next three years.

The three new labs will be built at:

  • 2250 Dabney Road in Henrico County (Richmond mailing address), a 71,000-square-foot building next to an existing PPD lab facility at 2244 Dabney Road.
  • 8700 Quioccasin Road in Henrico, formerly occupied by a Toys R Us store.
  • The VA Bio+Tech Park in Richmond, a 34-acre site that houses nearly 70 companies, research institutes, and state and federal laboratories.

The new facilities will expand a Thermo Fisher presence in Richmond that now consists of more than 300,000 square feet, which according to the company makes it one of the largest laboratories of its kind in the world.

In December, Thermo Fisher completed its $17.4 billion acquisition of PPD, a deal that further consolidated CROs into a handful of corporate giants. Thermo Fisher said the acquisition would establish it as a global leader in a clinical research industry it pegged at $50 billion.

Thermo Fisher’s Richmond-area bioanalytical lab—which includes operations dating back to 1985—is designed to provide services for all phases of biopharmaceutical development for small molecule drugs, biologics, vaccines, and biomarker testing. Drug testing services offered by the lab include drug pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics (PK/PD), immunogenicity, and biomarker quantitation to support drug efficacy and safety.

Thermo Fisher employs more than 1,200 professionals in the Richmond area—a figure the company said includes PhD-level scientists, analytical laboratory staff, and other scientific professionals.

Most of the expansion, according to Thermo Fisher, will occur in immunochemistry and chromatography functions, as well as in biomarker and vaccine sciences.

“Worldwide, we continue to expand our lab capacity to provide customers with high-quality bioanalytical lab services to advance their clinical research programs,” David M. Johnston, PhD, senior vice president and president, clinical research, Thermo Fisher Scientific, said in a statement. “These services are vital for drug development, as approximately 70% of data generated in clinical trials comes from analytical laboratory testing.”

U.S. and global locations

In addition to bioanalytical, biomarker, and vaccine sciences labs in the Richmond area, Thermo Fisher’s clinical research business includes bioanalytical and GMP labs in Middleton, WI; a GMP lab in Athlone, Ireland; central labs in Shanghai, China, Brussels, Belgium, Highland Heights, KY, and Singapore; a biomarker lab in Highland Heights; and a multipurpose bioanalytical, biomarker, and vaccine sciences lab in Suzhou, China.

“We’re pleased to extend our partnership with Virginia, Henrico County, and the City of Richmond to continue our efforts to help customers deliver life-changing therapies to patients in need,” Johnston added.

The Virginia Economic Development Partnership (VEDP) worked with Henrico County’s Henrico Economic Development Authority, the city of Richmond, and the VA Bio+Tech Park to attract Thermo Fisher’s expansion.

“Thermo Fisher’s expanding footprint and creation of more than 500 new jobs is a major win for the Greater Richmond region and Virginia’s life sciences industry,” Youngkin stated. “This sector has gained significant momentum in the Commonwealth due to our research institutions, skilled talent, and advanced innovation ecosystem, and we are proud of the company’s developments happening right here in Virginia.”

Youngkin took office on January 15. The administration of his predecessor Ralph Northam (D) approved a $1 million grant from the Virginia Investment Performance program, designed to assist companies already in Virginia and tied to fulfilling job creation promises. Northam’s administration also approved spending $2 million from the Commonwealth’s Opportunity Fund to assist Henrico County, and $151,952 to assist the city of Richmond for the planed VA Bio+Tech Park lab.

In addition, Thermo Fisher is eligible to receive state benefits from the Virginia Enterprise Zone Program, administered by the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development; as well as from the Major Business Facility Job Tax Credit, designed to foster creation of new full-time jobs.

Thermo Fisher is also expected to receive support for creating new jobs through the Virginia Talent Accelerator Program, a workforce initiative created by VEDP in collaboration with the Virginia Community College System and other higher education partners, with funding support from the Governor’s Administration and the Virginia General Assembly.

Launched in 2019, the Virginia Talent Accelerator Program is designed to accelerate the launch of new facilities through the direct delivery of recruitment and training services tailored to a company’s products, processes, equipment, standards, and culture. All of the program’s services are provided at no cost to qualified new and expanding companies, with the goal of fostering job creation.

Youngkin, Northam, and predecessors have sought in recent years to attract life-sciences employers and their jobs to Virginia, and thus bolster the state’s presence within a region where most of the industry’s activity has occurred in Maryland.

Virginia is part of the BioHealth Capital Region, which includes Maryland and Washington, D.C. The region ranked fourth in GEN’s 2021 A-List ranking of Top 10 U.S. Biopharma Clusters.

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