Paragon Welcomes Employees to New Gene Therapy Manufacturing Facility
After a week of persistent rain throughout Maryland, it was blue skies and a perfect 85-degree summer afternoon that marked an important day for Paragon Bioservices and their 250+ employees. Dozens of those employees stepped off a charter bus from Baltimore to see the brand new 151,000 sq/ft GMP biomanufacturing facility near BWI for the first time. The wide-open parking lots and 200 yards between the nearest building presented a much different landscape than they were used to at their current UM BioPark location in the city. An afternoon picnic and site tour was organized as a celebration for their employees, who got to enjoy some delicious ole’ fashioned BBQ, music and games outside before a short welcome ceremony.
With great pride and humble appreciation, Paragon’s President and CEO, Peter Buzy kicked off the day’s presentation by thanking his employees, many of whom were embracing the awe of the new facility for the first time. “This new building is a reflection of a great few years we’ve had at Paragon,” Buzy started off, “We have earned our client’s trust, we’re helping them to accomplish groundbreaking science, and have received great recognition. But, most importantly, it’s because of all of you we that we are delivering for them.”
Image: Paragon Bioservices CEO, Pete Buzy, dedicating the new facility to his employes
Paragon Bioservices provides Phase I and II contract development and manufacturing services for companies developing cutting-edge gene therapies. The gene therapy industry is a rapidly growing field with some analysts projecting more than 40 new FDA approvals within the coming three years. This represents a great market opportunity for a company like Paragon, and this new facility will enable them to capitalize on it. The new facility will immediately expand their capabilities and enable them to support Phase III contract manufacturing, and then commercial manufacturing services which will come online next year. At that point, they will become an end-to-end, Ph I through Commercial, CDMO with a strong position as a major player in the gene therapy market.
Paragon explored many new facility options and locations, including Boston and elsewhere throughout Maryland, but no other allowed for the growth potential that Buzy and his team saw for their future. “Our investors had the confidence in us to lease a big building and get behind our vision to grow a big company.” Buzy shared. A big company is truly what they are growing. They are now at 250 people, 100 of which were hired this year alone. This is just the beginning of their growth with another 50 open positions to hire for this year, and then another 100 more projected to run the new facility at capacity.
Achieving this kind of rapid growth in the biotech industry is a feat in itself, but to do so while maintaining the right culture and quality of service is an outstanding accomplishment. Part of their secret is that more than 30% of their new hires come from employee referrals. When employees are truly happy at work, engaged in the mission and have good leaders, they want to bring their friends and colleagues along for the ride. Employee engagement is something that they clearly have figured out. Starting with well-planned onboarding and training programs, to the #MakingAnImpact recognition program, or the events like this. The employees matter at Paragon and it shows.
“This is ‘your facility’ built on the foundation of your hard work, and you get to put your name on that.” stated John Conner, Chief Manufacturing Officer, as he asked each employee to sign a slab of concrete sitting on the table near the entrance. Paragon intends on making that slab part of the foundation of the building to commemorate their employees who helped them reach this company milestone. A gesture like this reflects the true appreciation Paragon’s leaders have for their employees and reflects a culture at the company that is part of why they have been able to grow as rapidly as they have. “Not many people in biotech are ever part of this kind of growth, and this kind of state-of-the-art facility.” concluded Conner, “It takes you all to make it happen, and you’ll always be a part of it.”
Images: Paragon Employees sign slab of foundation to memorialize their contributions
The facility itself wasn’t the only impressive aspect of this project. They also applied an innovative lean facility design and construction model that reduced what is typically a 36-42-week design-build project down to 16 weeks. After signing the lease in December 2017 and starting design in January 2018 they will be moving in office personnel as early as this August, with the first process validation runs expected in November.
The facility is expected to be operational by Q1 2019 and will use all single-use bioreactors with multipurpose suites that can be changed over quickly for new customers. The facility also embraces a modern industrial design theme with exposed structural features such as concrete, beams, ducts, and open ceilings which are complemented by dropped down cloud ceilings to make employee workspaces feel more defined. Paragon’s facility design and their ability to bring it online in such a record time is a very visible message to their clients, proving they are ready to meet the demands of the commercial gene therapy market and turn around projects quickly, safely and with high quality.
Meeting the needs of their clients is an important part of the Paragon culture that is reflected in the facilities conference rooms and collaboration spaces. As a services company, their client's work is part of what really motivates Paragon employees, many of whom truly embrace the client’s mission and make that part of their own. To help instill this mentality, Paragon hosts a regular client speaker series, so employees can really get to know their clients and the impact their products can have on patients. The significance of this new facility is that it can potentially touch hundreds of thousands of patients with the products that will be produced here.
Paragon is a Maryland born success story who grew to its status while an anchor tenant at the University of Maryland BioPark in Baltimore. With this new expansion to the BWI facility, it’s clear that Paragon is just getting started and will be a pillar company within Maryland’s biotech ecosystem for quite some time. “If we continue to do things right, like I know we will, there is much opportunity for advancement for you all. We’re building a great company, together.” shared Buzy to an audience of staff ready to follow him on that journey.
For more information on the job openings that Paragon has available, visit their website career section.
See more pictures from the Paragon Employee BBQ at BWI and new site tour.