Nearly three years after announcing plans to expand its production capacity in Durham, diagnostics company bioMérieux is readying the expanded facility for commercial production.
The local manufacturing site, which produces 100 million blood culture bottles a year, makes about half the world’s vials used by hospitals and labs to detect patients’ blood samples for bacterial infections. The French company employs 900 people at two sites in Durham, its Americas region headquarters, and about 10,000 people globally.
The expansion will help meet new demand for products deployed in the global battle against the growing crisis of antibiotic resistance. The company’s site could be expanded for a total potential capacity of four production lines that can make 23 types of testing bottles round-the-clock to meet medical and industrial demand.
The bottles, which contain a bacteria-promoting growth culture, are shipped to hospitals and microbiology labs and used to detect bacteria and yeasts, which helps doctors decide when to start and stop using antibiotics. In an era of antibiotic overuse that has prompted bacteria to mutate and develop resistance to treatment, bioMérieux officials estimate that as much as half the antibiotics used for respiratory diseases may be unnecessary.
“It is very important to get people off antibiotics as soon as possible,” said Stefan Willemsen, corporate vice-president of bioMérieux Americas. “The more you use your best antibiotics against bacteria with a quick reproduction cycle, the faster you will create resistant strains.”
On Wednesday, bioMérieux plans to mark the completion of the new production line with the company’s executive leadership team flown in from France, along with local public officials.
BioMérieux announced its 2-year $60 million expansion in 2014, hiring 100 people. The company completed its third and newest production line in October and has been testing the automated system until it’s deemed ready for a final inspection from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The new production line is expected to start making the bottles – which hold a 1/2 ounce to 2/3 ounces – sometime this year.
The company employs about 650 at the bottle site and 250 at its corporate office, which handles marketing and customer training of some 1,500 customers who come to Durham each year to receive training on bioMérieux products. The company acquired the Durham site in 2001 from Organon Teknika Diagnostic.
BioMérieux bottles are prepared with a culture medium to promote bacterial growth in blood samples for rapid detection. The company also makes instruments, called BacT/Alert 3D, at a St. Louis facility to detect the bacteria. The U.S. Centers for Disease for Control and Prevention, and the World Health Organization have both declared antibiotic resistance as a major public health threat.