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Biotech firm's growth expected to create 100 new jobs in Hillsboro

HILLSBORO TRIBUNE PHOTO: CHASE ALLGOOD - Larry Sanders, a Genentech vice president and general manager of the biotechnology companys Hillsboro operations, said the planned expansion will create about 100 new skilled manufacturing jobs. Hillsboro’s high-tech businesses have been showing signs of strong growth lately. Companies such as Intel and SolarWorld have been flexing their muscles and displaying confidence with expansion projects already under way or planned in the near future.

Last week, the community got another dose of good news when Genentech unveiled plans to invest more than $125 million to expand its Hillsboro operations.

Genentech is a biotechnology company that “discovers, develops, manufactures and commercializes medicines to treat patients with serious or life-threatening medical conditions,” according to the company’s website. The business is headquartered in San Francisco.

“This investment in our sterile production operations will result in the addition of up to 100 new skilled manufacturing jobs in the greater Portland area over the next five years, potentially bringing the total number of Genentech jobs in Oregon to over 500,” said Larry Sanders, Genentech general manager and vice president.

Genentech began its operations in Hillsboro in April 2010 and is now home to a fill/finish facility and warehousing and distribution center.

Genentech’s expansion plans were met with enthusiasm from city and state officials.

“This is tremendous news for the city of Hillsboro, Washington County and the entire state of Oregon,” said Hillsboro Mayor Jerry Willey. “Genentech’s decision to invest $125 million here in Hillsboro will create job opportunities for our residents and boost our economy. This announcement increases our enthusiasm to pursue additional global investments in Hillsboro as we work to attract and retain jobs in key industries.”

Mark Clemons, director of Hillsboro’s Economic Development Department, said the growth at Genentech, which is located along Northwest Brookwood Parkway in the city’s North Hillsboro industrial area, helps position Hillsboro for further economic advances.

“The North Hillsboro Industrial District is the center of our city’s technology cluster,” Clemons said. “Genentech’s new investment reinforces North Hillsboro’s attractiveness to the global technology industry.”

“Another business expanding is a good sign,” added state Rep. Susan McLain. “It’s exciting to see people doing well and continuing to expand in our community.”Genentech

Expansion of operations at the Hillsboro site is part of the company’s strategy to boost its manufacturing capacity to meet increasing demand.

In combination with its parent company, the Roche Group, Genentech has become known as a world leader in biologics manufacturing and, according to the Genentech website, has more FDA-approved manufacturing capacity for the production of biotech medicines than any other company.

Robin Snyder, Genentech’s director of science communications, said Genentech’s Hillsboro facilities take in bulk drug product from other Genentech and Roche manufacturing facilities all over the world.

“Right now, they are mostly from Oceanside and Vacaville in California and from Singapore, but soon will also come from Germany and Korea,” Snyder explained. “The bulk product is shipped to the facility in Hillsboro, where it is filled and finished — essentially meaning put into final dosage form for patients.”

Snyder said the process is called “aseptic filling.”

“As of today, the current Hillsboro work force is 415. We are actively hiring,” Snyder said. “The jobs we are hiring for are probably best described as skilled manufacturing jobs.”

Industry observers pointed out that Genentech’s move is a positive indicator for the entire biotech sector in Oregon.

“Genentech’s plan to expand its Hillsboro facility represents an important milestone in the industry’s growth trajectory in Oregon,” said Dennis McNannay, executive director of the Oregon Bioscience Association. “Combined with other recent achievements like the historic Knight Cancer Challenge, Oregon is positioned to significantly expand our life sciences manufacturing footprint.”

According to Snyder, Genentech’s expansion will take place within its current operational footprint, and the company will not need to purchase more land.

“When the existing structures were constructed, there was shell space left to add this additional capacity, which is now going to be built out,” Snyder explained. “We currently have two fill/finish lines. The expansion will add a third line. This is necessary to meet the demand for our marketed products and to keep pace with our very promising product pipeline.”

Snyder added that Genentech is firmly rooted in the state.

“We believe biotech is a great fit for Oregon, and this expansion illustrates our commitment to the area,” she said.

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