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Syringe company plans $800 million, 650-job plant in RTP

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Stamford, Conn.-based ApiJect Ltd. plans a 1 million-square-foot plant in Research Triangle Park to make billions of syringes to be used in delivering COVID-19 vaccines. It will employ as many as 650 people after the company receives a $590 million loan from the U.S. International Development Finance Corp., company officials said. Salaries are expected to range from $60,000 to $100,000 annually.

It has been previously reported that ApiJect received a federal grant earlier this year, according to a March release  from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The new loan is in addition to that funding. ApiJect must raise $195 million to receive the IDFC loan, the cmopany said..

The effort is part of the Trump Administration’s plan to avoid equipment shortages as it rolls out COVID-19 vaccines. The syringe made by ApiJect is a little bigger than a thumb. The goal is to avoid the shortages that occurred during early coronavirus testing. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not approved the product, according to an NPR report.

ApiJect is led by CEO Franco Negron, who has a lengthy history of running North Carolina-based operations for major drug companies. He was most recently president of ThermoFisher Scientific, which bought his former employer, Patheon Pharmaceuticals, where he was president of development and commercial for North America. He also was a vice president of manufacturing and supply at Raleigh-based Valeant Pharmaceuticals and had senior posts at Novartis and McNeil Consumer Healthcare.

Jefferies Financial Group, a New York investment firm, financed $10 million to build as many as eight “surge” fill-finish facilities in the U.S. to make syringes for emergencies like the pandemic, the Fierce Pharma news service reported in March. Jefferies said it would help find investors for the project.

The HHS award involves a system called Rapid Aseptic Packaging of Injectable Drugs, or RAPID. Its planning started in early 2019, before the coronavirus outbreka.

ApiJect was founded in 2015 by social entrepreneur Marc Koska, who had worked for decades to prevent deaths in developing countries from the reuse of contaminated needles. Koska invented the single-dose ApiJect device for health care workers. The company has relied on manufacturing contractors to produce them.

ApiJect will handle the R&D and testing of select medical countermeasures from the Strategic National Stockpile to handle a “population-scale surge response,” NPR reported earlier this year. That put the onus on ApiJect to create a manufacturing operation and arrange financing for the project, the news service noted.

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