Beaverton, Mich. — Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics is out to put a small Michigan town dubbed the thermoforming capital of the world on the map for another reason with a $26 million expansion of its life sciences division.
The Solon, Ohio-based subsidiary of Cie de Saint-Gobain, is building an 88,000-square-foot facility in Beaverton to add capacity to extrude medical tubing and produce components and assemblies for its customers in the drug manufacturing business.
The expansion will create 60 jobs and increase Saint-Gobain's footprint in the rural town to 148,000 square feet. The company currently is Beaverton's top employer with 251 workers. The community has a population of 1,071.
The growth is being driven by the pharmaceutical industry, which is switching from stainless steel products to disposable plastics and silicones as drugs become more specialized and individualized, said Stephen Maddox, general manager for the life sciences unit of the performance plastics business.
"That's a much smaller-scale approach and in going smaller, that makes plastic all the more economical," Maddox told Plastics News at a groundbreaking on Sept. 10.
The new facility will make products for drug and vaccine manufacturers to process fluids, added Benjamin Le Quere, manager of Saint-Gobain's bioprocess solutions unit. For an example, he pointed to silicone tubing that branches from two to four to eight lines for filling drug vials.
"In one process step, eight or 16 samples can be collected" and put into smaller containers, Le Quere said.
He oversees Saint-Gobain's new life sciences lab in Worcester, Mass., which tests products for the fast-growing fields of cell and gene therapies. In some cases, scientists are modifying patients' immune cells and sending them back to be used in those people for new therapies that detect and destroy cancer.
The products to be manufactured at the new Beaverton facility will ultimately improve patient care, said Mark Rovoll, engineering manager for Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics.