Life sciences company announces relocation to Leland, builds $10M facility

Cygnus will move to Leland to build a new facility, slated to break ground this fall. (Port City Daily/Courtesy Cygnus)

LELAND — Maravai LifeSciences will relocate one of its companies, Cygnus Technologies, from its home base in Southport to Leland’s Waterford Commercial Park. A new office will double its space and bring more employment opportunities over the next five years, according to a release from the Town of Leland.

The move will cost $10 million to build Cygnus’ two-story 45,000 square-foot facility. It will include 2,300 square feet of cold storage, as well as manufacturing and testing suites, research and development laboratories and a mass spectrometry center.

Cygnus works as a partner in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries, developing, manufacturing, and distributing host cell protein and immunoassay kits for impurity testing. Its products include therapeutic proteins, vaccines, antibodies, plasma derivatives and gene therapies; the company works on them in the early approval stages to maintain safety and quality control ahead of human trials and before they reach market. 


Ken Hoffman founded Cygnus in 1989 in Massachusetts and moved it to Southport in the late ’90s; Maravai LifeSciences bought it in November 2016. Its portfolio makes up four companies — TriLink BioTechnologies, Glen Research, Vector Laboratories and Cygnus Technologies — and multiple patents and proprietary technologies (including CleanCap, a modified mRNA technology used in Covid-19 vaccines). Maravai became public in November 2020 (NASDAQ: MRVI) and employs over 500 people to date.

It experienced its most profitable quarter in the company’s history, according to an Aug. 10 second-quarter earnings call, which revealed it ended the 2021 second quarter with $217.8 million in revenue. The call transcript shows Maravai’s profits increased 47% over the first quarter and 364% compared to 2020.

Cygnus brought in $18.2 million in the second quarter for Maravai, according to chief financial officer Kevin Herde. Its top technologies included human embryonic kidney kits, as utilized in both vaccine and gene and cell therapy programs, plus protein A leachate kits, “used to purify monoclonal antibodies and our endonuclease offerings,” Herde said on the call.

The local company has been working on host cell protein enzyme-linked immunosorbent and impurity assays for all common vaccine production systems. The website notes efforts continue “fueling development of COVID-19 biological therapies and vaccines by providing high-quality and efficient delivery of kits and reagents.”

Christine Dolan, chief operating officer of Cygnus Technologies, said in a release the company’s space and employment needs are rapidly evolving: “With the tremendous growth Cygnus Technologies has realized and is projecting for the future, we have outgrown our current facility.”

Cygnus currently employs 50 people, but the company estimates 150 employees could be added to its Leland campus in coming years. Groundbreaking is expected on the new site by the end of 2021 with occupancy by fall 2022.

“Extensive process flow analysis has been incorporated in the design of the facility to optimize and enhance both our manufacturing and kit packaging operations,” chairman and chief executive officer Carl Hull said on the earnings call.

The appeal to be in Leland, according to Dolan, came from its close proximity to surrounding amenities, including the Wilmington International Airport, not to mention Waterford Commercial Park’s access to retail, restaurants, medical offices and housing options.

“We are thrilled to become an integral part of the life sciences community in Leland and greater Wilmington, NC, area,” she said in a release.

Wilmington-based CIGG LLC is the developer for the new Cygnus office, to be located at  1523 Old Waterford Way. It will be designed by Philip Humphrey of PGH Architecture and built by Environments Unlimited Inc.


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