In April of 2019, Kite, a Gilead Company, announced their decision to locate to Frederick County, MD and open a new manufacturing facility on a 20-acre site located at the Urbana Corporate Center. A lot of progress has happened since then; Kite finished their brand new 279,000 SF biologics manufacturing facility in April 2021. To learn more, Solash Aviles and Jodie Bollinger from the Frederick County Office of Economic Development met with Chris McDonald, Senior Vice President, Global Head of Manufacturing at Kite and Jim Jackson, Vice President, Manufacturing Operations and Site Head at Kite.
Kite chose Frederick County after a site selection process that looked at several different states. Incentive packages played a part, but what really stood out for them was the County’s Planning and Permitting Department. Frederick was able to offer Turbo Fast Track Permitting to expedite their development process while adhering to all established standards, and this was essential to their decision. “Frederick County’s Permitting Process was unbelievable. The construction went smoothly, and being able to send the inspector out, especially during a pandemic... I really can’t say enough about how great the County was to work with during that period,” shared Chris McDonald. Chris also mentioned that another asset to this area is the workforce and their knowledge on cell and gene therapy, “Maryland is one of the hotbeds in the country for cell and gene therapy, especially in the manufacturing space.”
The site has already hired 120 full-time employees that are working on validation, calibration, trainings, etc. and plan to start an accelerated hiring process from October 2021 to March 2022 in order to be ready for clinical and commercial manufacturing in 2022. “We are expecting to grow our workforce from 120 full-time employees to about 300 by the end of first quarter 2022,” shared Jim Jackson. When asked about the type of talent Kite is looking for Jim shared, “We are looking for all kinds of people with engineering backgrounds, chemical, biological, microbiology, and people in maintenance. But what we are really looking for is passionate people, problem solvers that can understand the urgency of this job.”
Kite has also been collaborating with local education institutions including Frederick Community College and Hood College from a staff development perspective. “I really do think that the companies that are going to be successful are the ones that are able to hire, retain, and develop their staff,” shared Chris McDonald.
Beyond this state-of-the-art manufacturing site, what really shines is the value of the work Kite is doing, leading innovative cell therapies for people battling cancer. The work that Kite is doing touches each patient in a unique way. They are not manufacturing batches of the same drug. Each product is created for the treatment of an individual patient. “One of the compelling reasons I came to Kite is because of the product, we are treating people that are very sick and we have the potential for a cure. We are looking for people that could share that passion, every batch is a patient, every patient has a story, and what Kite brings is a mission,” shared Chris McDonald.
For more information on Kite, visit https://www.kitepharma.com/. To see Kite’s open job positions in Frederick, please visit https://www.kitepharma.com/careers/careers-at-kite.
For more information on Frederick County’s bioscience community, go to http://www.discoverfrederickmd.com/bioscience.