Protein Sciences Corp., the Meriden-based maker of flu vaccines with a long and colorful history in Connecticut, is investing millions of dollars in a new manufacturing facility — in Rockland County, N.Y.
The company, with its roots in genetic research, has worked for more than a decade toward expanding regular manufacturing. Many in Connecticut had hoped that would happen in the company’s home state, but in Pearl River, N.Y., Protein Sciences found a ready-to-use pharmaceutical manufacturing plant abandoned by Pfizer after the drug giant bought Wyeth a few years ago.
Protein Sciences, with about 100 employees in Connecticut, said it will hire 50 people in Pearl River initially and could expand to 150 within a decade.
“The Hudson Valley is continuing to solidify its reputation as the place to be for biopharmaceutucal companies that are looking to invest expand,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a written release.
The move comes as Protein Sciences awaits final approval for its major product, Flublok, perhaps as soon as next month.
It’s unclear whether Connecticut economic development officials had a chance to make an offer to Protein Sciences. But starting in 2010, Pfizer shuttered manufacturing at the former Wyeth site and laid off hundreds of workers, leaving a modern facility and an available workforce.
“There is no biologics manufacturing facility in the state of Connecticut,” said Dan Adams, the Protein Sciences executive chairman. “This one’s fully equipped and we did get a good deal on it… it means we can move forward in the next flu season. Building from scratch there’s no way we could have done that.”
New York State offered $2 million in tax credits to Protein Sciences, which must create 100 jobs by 2017 and maintain them at least until 2023.
Protein Sciences has leased two buildings totaling 83,000 square feet. Pfizer continues to use the 550-acre campus for research, including vaccine work. That makes the location all the more enticing for Protein Sciences, which develops flu vaccines based on recombinant technology, rather than the traditional method using eggs or other proteins.
Earlier this year Protein Sciences hired a manufacturing vice president who had worked for 20 years at Wyeth.
The company in 2009 signed a $147 million contract with the the U.S. Biomedical Advanced Research & Development Authority, part of the department of Health and Human Services. With more than $20 million in revenues, about 60 percent from that contract, Protein Sciences is profitable and will be able to expand using cash flow, Adams said.
Protein Sciences was founded in 1983 in West Haven as MicroGeneSys Inc. The company gained wide recognition and high hopes in the Connecticut technology community by developing an AIDS drug that reached human trials but failed. The company renamed itself Protein Sciences in 1997.