Evonik makes Birmingham its global medical devices center as part of a $50 million expansion

Evonik makes Birmingham its global medical devices center as part of a $50 million expansion
Kel Boisvert, Birmingham site manager for Evonik, talks about the company's $50 million expansion in Birmingham. (Michael Tomberlin / Alabama NewsCenter)

Germany-based Evonik said today Birmingham is now home to its global Competence Center for Medical Devices following a $50 million expansion in what Gov. Kay Ivey called its “second home.”

The company has invested those millions over the past four years in a number of innovations that position the Magic City as the center of biomaterials and medical polymers when it comes to medical devices and pharmaceuticals.

“I’m always proud when a new company announces that they’re coming to Alabama, but I’m especially proud when an existing firm announces that they want to expand,” Ivey said. “Today, your presence is larger here than anywhere in North America. We are proud that you are calling Alabama and Birmingham your home. I think it’s fair to say that Alabama is Evonik’s second home.”

Evonik makes Birmingham home to its global Competence Center for Medical Devices from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

Birmingham became a new home for Evonik when it acquired medical device coatings company SurModics in 2011. Evonik and its predecessor companies have been in Alabama for decades.

“We have a 40-year history in Alabama; it’s a very rich one,” Evonik President John Rolando said. “It started primarily down in the Mobile area and then, through the SurModics acquisition, it brought Evonik to Birmingham. The Birmingham reputation for medical research and investment driven by the university here really made a very attractive place.”

Evonik made Birmingham home to its only U.S. Project House, one of 11 global innovation hubs that focuses research and development to turn good ideas into marketable innovations. The Birmingham Project House has an emphasis on medical devices.

Electrospinning to make bioresorbable meshes for wound healing applications in the Medical Device Competence Center of Evonik. (Evonik)

“This is the first (Project House) that has actually moved into a Competence Center,” said Kel Boisvert, Birmingham site manager for Evonik.

Dr. Reiner Beste, deputy chairman of the executive board at Evonik, noted the Magic City’s place in an important growth area for Evonik.

“The story here in Birmingham is very well anchored in the overall growth story of Evonik,” Beste said. “The projects which we have here are really an important milestone.”

The Project House’s metamorphosis to become a Competence Center will further advance innovation and work with customer partners in development, Beste noted.

The Birmingham center has assembled a team from nine countries with backgrounds ranging from medicine to polymers to aerospace.

Evonik’s investment included installing a new, high-speed fill line for its extended-release drug delivery business, which focuses on polymer-based microparticles administered through injection or IV.

Evonik has begun construction of a new Resomer-brand polymers production facility next to its existing Birmingham location. The new facility will increase production of bioresorbable polymers and add new production clean rooms and a pilot unit for contract polymer research projects.

Evonik develops polymers with targeted application properties. Manufacturers of medical devices use these to produce implants such as screws. (Evonik)

Evonik said the fill line and Resomer plant are expected to be up and running in the second half of 2018. These polymers are used to formulate extended-release parenteral drug delivery systems and to manufacture bioresorbable medical devices, such as plates and screws for trauma and orthopedic applications, as well as bioresorbable stents and coatings for next-generation cardiovascular treatments.

“We expect the global demand for those products to expand heavily in the coming years,” Beste said.

The expansion comes with plans to add high-paying jobs.

“With that investment comes the promise of creating at least 50 new jobs that will be paying a really good wage, from $75,000 to $200,000 a year,” Ivey said. “Folks, that’s real money.”

The company worked closely with the Alabama Department of Commerce, city of Birmingham, Jefferson County and the Birmingham Business Alliance to move forward with the expansion.

“Evonik’s decision to expand its work on highly advanced drug delivery systems in Birmingham is a testament to the talented workforce and broad capabilities that the city offers in the bioscience realm,” said Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce.

“We have developed a long-standing partnership with Evonik over the years, and we’re committed to supporting the company as it carries out this significant expansion project.”

Evonik employs more than 1,000 people in Alabama between Birmingham Labs and its Mobile chemicals production site, which is its largest in North America.

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