May 10—By 2022, Frederick County will see an estimated 1,500 new jobs after diagnostics solutions company Ellume moves in.
The Australian-based company, which makes at-home COVID-19 tests, is set to open its first U.S. manufacturing facility in Frederick, county officials announced Monday.
The 180,000-square-foot facility in the Progress Labs Corporate Park off Md. 85 will be home to the plant.
"This is great news for Frederick County," Frederick County Executive Jan Gardner said in a news release. "Ellume is on the cutting edge, making products that will help the world to overcome this health pandemic. We are excited to welcome Ellume to our thriving life science and biopharma family."
Gardner said the county has accelerated the permitting process for Ellume, which is investing $16 million in the county, so production can begin in the second half of 2021. As a result, Ellume will be eligible for county tax credits for the next six years. Additionally, Advantage Maryland is working with Ellume though the Maryland Department of Commerce on a conditional loan, which is contingent on job creation and capital investment.
Ellume's COVID-19 Home Test was the first of its kind to receive emergency authorization from the Food and Drug Administration in the U.S. for both asymptomatic and symptomatic use without a prescription.
"We look forward to building the foundation for Ellume's long-term vision in the U.S. and recruiting the highly skilled talent in Maryland's Biotech Corridor needed to fuel our flagship U.S. facility," Jeff Boyle, Ellume U.S. president, said in a prepared statement. "Frederick is the ideal location for Ellume as we continue to work closely with the U.S. government in delivering COVID-19 tests to communities across the country."
If the company delivers on the 1,500 jobs, Ellume USA will become one of Frederick County's top 10 employers by 2022, said Helen Propheter, director of the Frederick County Office of Economic Development.
"It gives people another option, people who may not have considered being in life science, an opportunity to go work for a life science leader and see if that environment is something they want to create a career out of," Propheter said. "I think it's great."
Gov. Larry Hogan took an infrastructure and trade mission to Australia in 2019 where he toured Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide and met with various businesses and officials, according to a press release from the governor's office. This February, Ellume signed a $231.8 million agreement with the U.S. Department of Defense and the Department of Health and Human Services to accelerate domestic production of its COVID-19 testing materials.
"Maryland is a great place to do business, and we are pleased that Ellume has chosen Maryland for this significant expansion that will create more than 1,500 new life sciences jobs in our state," Hogan said in a prepared statement. "I am grateful that the partnerships and connections we created during our 2019 mission to Australia have resulted in bringing this world-class company to Maryland."
Progress Labs, where Ellume is leasing two buildings, is an initiative by real estate developer Matan to bring 2 million square feet of biotech space to the I-270 corridor between Frederick and Bethesda. Ellume is the first tenant in the Frederick business park, said Brad Benna, leasing and acquisitions team member at Matan. He estimates the two buildings will be ready for the company's build-outs by this summer. The facilities will have ample parking space, heavy floor loads and high ceilings, all of which Benna said are important factors for biotech companies.
"The goal [of Progress Labs] is to bring more of these types of jobs to this area because they're great for Maryland and Frederick in particular," Benna said.
Because the spaces Ellume leased are tilt-up buildings, they can be finished rather quickly, Propheter said.
"I will say that Matan has done a great job of showcasing their location," Propheter said. "And it was very important to [Ellume] — because of what they do — to be able to be under [a] roof as quickly as possible."
Bringing biotech companies to the area has long been a goal of both state and local agencies. The first time Gardner implemented a Turbo Fast Track permitting process was for Kite Pharma in 2018, and she has used it for other companies like AstraZeneca and Kroger since. Ellume USA is the newest business to be granted this priority by Gardner, which Propheter said is a very important perk for businesses doing time-sensitive work like Ellume.
"We're thrilled to have won this business and cannot wait to be at a ribbon-cutting and have their leadership and a group of their employees there," Propheter said. "I guess anytime is a great time to welcome a new business into your area and your county, but certainly coming out of a pandemic, it is nice to have good news."
Follow Erika Riley on Twitter: @ej_riley