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VENTURA COUNTY NEWS

Firm Plans to Expand Biotech Plant, Add 150 Jobs

Economy: Hyland Immuno division, maker of a profitable blood-clotting therapy, says it will spend $100 million to enlarge its Thousand Oaks facility.

March 24, 2000|TONY LYSTRA | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

THOUSAND OAKS — A biotech manufacturer on Thursday announced a $100-million expansion of its Thousand Oaks facility, tripling production capacity and adding nearly 150 workers to the local staff.

The Hyland Immuno division, 1700 Rancho Conejo Blvd., manufactures a blood-clotting therapy called recombinant Factor VIII that hemophiliacs take intravenously. The company is a division of Baxter Healthcare Corp., which is based in Deerfield, Ill.

Sales of the hemophiliac treatment manufactured in Ventura County generated $612 million in profit for Baxter last year, according to the company.

Company representatives said they will expand the 110,000-square-foot local facility by about 75,000 square feet and increase the plant's work force from about 350 workers to nearly 500 by year's end.

"We think that [Southern California] is going to be a future hub of biotech . . . based on our expansion," said Norbert G. Riedel, president of Hyland Immuno's recombinant business unit.

If Hyland's plans to add 150 employees come to fruition, the company would be among the county's top 40 employers, based on the Economic Outlook 2000 issued by UC Santa Barbara's Economic Forecast Project.

The jobs are considered high-skilled manufacturing positions that require a science or engineering background, said company spokeswoman Tali Kaplan. She declined to say how much the jobs would pay.

Gary Wartik, Thousand Oaks' manager of economic development, said Hyland's expansion is just what Thousand Oaks needs.

"Every uptick in employment, especially well-paying jobs, contributes to the economic strength of the community," he said.

The expansion announcement came as Baxter officials gathered at the Hyatt Westlake Plaza hotel to discuss the company's future with nearly 150 industry analysts representing high-profile investment firms.

Kaplan said Baxter executives held the meeting here to show off the Thousand Oaks facility.

"A key component of the bioscience business is obviously the Thousand Oaks plant," she said.

Baxter representatives are trying to convince investors that the company is moving into a renaissance, poised to capitalize on international health care markets with new products and new production capabilities.

Baxter, which employs nearly 45,000 people worldwide and reaped more than $6 billion in revenues last year, has been historically conservative and tight-lipped, Kaplan said. During this first meeting of its kind with analysts in nearly a decade, the company was showing off a younger management team that has a more aggressive strategy, she said.

"This is generally an unforgiving group," Kaplan said of the analysts. "If we don't meet these commitments, this group will hold us to it."

Work on the Thousand Oaks facility is nearly completed, Kaplan said. Workers are outfitting two manufacturing suites with new equipment. When completed, the structure will be a "state of the art biotechnology facility," Kaplan said, that includes everything needed to produce, package and ship the product.

The company applied for Food and Drug Administration approval of one new production facility in Thousand Oaks on March 17 and will apply for similar approval from the European Union next month. The company will approach the FDA and EU for approval of a third production facility this summer, officials said.

Although recombinant Factor VIII, the treatment manufactured in Thousand Oaks, was approved by the FDA in 1992, facilities where it is manufactured face similar government scrutiny, Kaplan said. The facility requires European Union approval because the drug produced there is also sold in Europe.

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