RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK – COVID-19 has dramatically changed the business landscape over the past year and a half. Businesses large and small have been forced to adapt to an uncertain economy, dwindling raw materials, sourcing challenges and radically different ways of working.
But all was not so bad. A number of North Carolina-based companies linked to the biopharmaceutical supply chain have seen their fortunes improve – in some cases markedly – as demand for medical products and services has intensified. It’s a trend that promises to continue as the country ignores the most severe effects of the pandemic, but faces new challenges related to the Delta variant and the unpredictable nature of COVID-19.
Local businesses experiencing a coronavirus-induced bump in their businesses include Core technology molding company – a minority owned company in Greensboro – and RGEES, a refrigerated shipping company located just outside Asheville.
Core’s pharmaceutical business experiences explosive growth
Custom plastic injection molding company Core Technology, established in 2006 by Geoff Foster, transplanted to New Jersey, has seen its biotech and biopharmacy segment grow organically from 5% of its total business last year to 60% in 2021.
Core Technology provides specially designed materials to a wide variety of customers in the medical device, automotive, aerospace, pharmaceutical, consumer goods, home appliance and outdoor lawn equipment industries. . The company’s customer base includes large non-pharmaceutical names such as Newell Rubbermaid, Husqvarna, BMW, Volvo & Mack Trucks and HAECO (a supplier to Airbus). It delivers its products to 150 countries.
Foster, who is the CEO and chairman of the company, said the company’s non-pharmaceutical segments have continued to grow steadily. But the demand for pharmaceuticals has exploded, mainly due to the demand for single-use vaccine assemblies and plunger rods. Vaccine production at Merck and the addition of Pfizer as a new customer are the main drivers. His business is currently experiencing triple-digit growth, Foster said, and he expects the trend to continue next year.
Core Technology will produce 100 million piston rods in 2022 and double that number to 200 million in 2023, he said. The highly automated factory operates on a continuous schedule seven days a week. Rapid growth will likely require an expansion of the company’s current manufacturing footprint at Gateway Research Park in Greensboro, a joint partnership between North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University and University of North Carolina Greensboro. “We are also increasing our workforce from our current 30 employees,” he added.
Ironically, a global shortage of raw materials has helped Core Technology’s business. Companies that previously sourced products from India, China and other low-cost countries have moved back to the United States where there are fewer delays and where production and product availability are more predictable.
âWe get a lot of our raw materials from the United States, which has allowed us to meet our schedules and gain market share from other companies,â Foster explained. âAnd we are able to deliver products to our more local customers in hours rather than weeks. “
15-year-old company recognized for its achievements
Foster founded Core Technology 15 years ago with three employees and the engineering experience he gained from Corning Life Sciences, AMP Inc. and Tyco Electronics. Originally from New Jersey, he received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in applied engineering from NCA&T – where he also played football – and his MBA from the Babcock Graduate School of Business at Wake Forest University.
Foster met his wife, Tonya – from Greensboro – at college. A registered nurse by training, she now manages all of the company’s human resources activities and is also a safety and environment coordinator.
The Triad Business Journal named Core Technology one of the Triad’s âBest Family Businessesâ for 2018. Among its other accomplishments, the company has been repeatedly recognized as Minority Supplier of the Year and Minority Small Business of the Year. year in 2015 by the Greensboro Chamber of Commerce.
âAs a global supplier and entrepreneurial leader, Geoff and his team are helping to shape the growth of the North Carolina life science community while contributing to our regional efforts,â said Nancy Johnston, executive director of the Piedmont office. North Carolina Biotechnology Center Triad.
âGeoff’s expertise, energy and strong commitment as a member of our Piedmont Triad Advisory Board are appreciated as we work to advance economic growth opportunities. “
As dry ice decreases, companies switch to RGEES
RGEES – based in the town of Arden in Buncombe County, just south of Asheville – is experiencing a similar growth spurt. The company was established in 2009 by Harshul and Elena Gupta and Andreas and Nina Reinhardt.
It’s a local business with an international touch. Harshul and Elena met at university in Ukraine. He moved to the United States from Kazakhstan and she is originally from Russia. Andreas is from Germany and Nina has Korean roots. The two families met in the Asheville area where Harshul Gupta – an electrical engineer by training – had started working for a Canton-based manufacturer and where Nina had grown up.
RGEES specializes in the manufacturing of phase change material (PCM) packs and the design and assembly of temperature-controlled shipping containers for life science customers. PCMs are capable of storing and releasing large amounts of thermal energy as they change from solid to liquid state. This process maintains the constant temperatures – from several hours to several days – required for the shipment of many biopharmaceutical and medical products.
COVID-19 Creates Growth Opportunity
The current pandemic has created a shortage of dry ice used to transport temperature-sensitive health products, Harshul said. Thus, a number of pharmaceutical companies and clinical laboratories have turned to REGEES phase change technology as a safe, reusable and environmentally friendly alternative.
RGEES provides PCM packs in the sizes required to transport everything from COVID tests to clinical trial samples, laboratory reagents, blood samples, vaccines and other pharmaceuticals, and even heart transplant kits. and renal. Companies such as Labcorp and Quest Diagnostics rely on RGEES technology.
The reliance on COVID-19 testing and home delivery – instead of medical facilities, pharmacies or labs – has also dramatically increased business, Harshul said. The 12-employee firm’s revenue doubled last year, and it predicts another 30-40 percent jump in 2021.
RGEES ‘Akuratemp unit designs tailor-made shipping containers for validated packages that are integrated with PCM refrigerants for the transport of organic products. This gives customers a turnkey shipping option. Gupta said the containers are well suited for multi-purpose applications. And their insulation properties, combined with PCM technology, provide excellent temperature control.
Akuratemp uses integrated IoT (Internet of Things) sensors and software to monitor the temperatures of its shipping containers. The software also provides end-to-end supply chain traceability, from packaging to delivery.
The company mainly focuses on small parcel shippers in the United States, but has also exported to Europe and the Far East, according to Harshul.
He said he and his partners chose North Carolina as the base for their business because of the state’s well-established and rapidly growing life sciences ecosystem. RGEES hopes to increase the number of its CN-based customers in the future.
âI have known and have owned RGEES for a decade and am happy that they are growing up in this challenging pandemic business environment,â said Jonathan Snover, Ph.D., executive director of NCBiotech’s Western office. âThey demonstrate the need for entrepreneurs to be patient and agile when deploying a transformative product. “
The benefits of a strong supply chain
In addition to Core Technology and RGEES, North Carolina is home to dozens of other providers of products and services used by the healthcare and biopharmaceutical industry. Their presence is a real plus for the sector and the State.
âOne of the great strengths of the biopharmaceutical industry in North Carolina is the huge array of companies that exist to support it,â said Doug Edgeton, President and CEO of NCBiotech. âWe are indeed fortunate not only to have one of the largest and most diverse pharmaceutical and biotechnology hubs in the country, but also one of the strongest supply chains.
“The presence of both makes our state a magnet for businesses wishing to relocate or expand, as well as for new businesses that have just started,” he added. âWe believe we provide the perfect climate for both. “