Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly said that Emergent BioSolutions is based in Rockville. Its headquarters is in Gaithersburg. This version has been corrected.
British drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline announced plans Thursday to open a new vaccine research center in Rockville this fall, a project that could bring up to 700 new jobs to Montgomery County.
The center would combine two Glaxo research facilities on the East Coast and is expected to employ 1,000 people by 2016, a company spokeswoman said.
Glaxo’s decision to come to Maryland is a feather in the cap for state officials and industry leaders who are trying to turn the region into a national biotechnology hub.
“This is a wonderful, wonderful gift to Maryland,” said Philip Schiff, chief executive of the Tech Council of Maryland, a trade group pushing to make the region a top-three national life-sciences center by 2023.
Vaccine development in particular has attracted several biotech companies to the Washington area, home to the National Institutes of Health and the Food and Drug Administration.
Glaxo’s British rival AstraZeneca last year announced a $200 million project to expand its manufacturing facilities in Frederick. The project is expected to add 40,000 square feet of space and employ 300 people, the company said at the time. AstraZeneca has also centered its drug research programs in the United States at its MedImmune facility in Gaithersburg.
Emergent BioSolutions, maker of an anthrax vaccine, is based in Gaithersburg. The company is developing an advanced center for vaccine development in the region under a multiyear contract with the Department of Health and Human Services.
Glaxo’s move “puts Montgomery County on the map as the place to be in the vaccine development arena,” said Sally Sternbach, acting director of the county’s department of economic development.
The new center will focus on “key late stage development programmes, as well as vaccine discovery and new platform technology development,” Glaxo said in a statement. It is to be one of three global vaccine research centers for the company, and the only non-European one. The new organization follows GlaxoSmithKline’s recently completed $5.3 billion acquisition of Novartis’s vaccine business, a deal that turned the drug giant into a company focused on vaccines and consumer products.
The expansion could have a ripple effect on the region’s life-sciences economy, industry members said, spawning new partnerships among companies or the growth of specialized start-ups and manufacturing units.
“I would expect to see more companies involved in the commercialization of vaccines to come to Maryland because of the resources we have here,” said Douglas Doerfler, chief executive of MaxCyte, a local biotech firm.
Glaxo’s Philadelphia and Cambridge, Mass., research locations, which employ 300 people, are to merge into the new center, the spokeswoman said.
The Rockville site, which Glaxo has operated since its 2012 acquisition of Human Genome Sciences, is home to 400 manufacturing employees. The new facility will span three buildings totaling 478,000 square feet. It is expected to open in September.