Abbott, an Illinois-based Fortune 500 company and medical device powerhouse, is building a large manufacturing facility in Indiana, and the state’s life sciences leaders are counting it as a major victory. The $38 million manufacturing plant—perhaps the largest life sciences investment in years by a new-to-Indiana company—will make Abbott’s MitraClip, a heart device that is “fueling new growth for the company.” As demand outpaced the device’s first production site in California, Indiana’s life science heritage enticed Abbott to build new room to grow.

“Abbott can [build new facilities] anywhere, and it’s exciting they chose Indiana,” says Brian Stemme, senior vice president for industry engagement at BioCrossroads, the state’s life sciences initiative. “Life sciences attraction projects are very competitive; anytime you can beat out 49 other states that are interested in a facility and having the presence of a global, publicly-traded, tier 1 company, it’s definitely something to be excited about.”

The manufacturing plant in Westfield will churn out the MitraClip device, which is the only FDA approved technology of its kind to treat mitral regurgitation. Between the heart’s left atrium and left ventricle, the mitral valve opens and closes to send blood flow in one direction. Mitral regurgitation occurs when the valve doesn’t close completely, allowing blood to leak backward (regurgitate) inside the heart.

Open-heart surgery is the typical treatment to repair or replace the valve, but many patients aren’t good candidates for such a major procedure. The MitraClip opens the door for a less-invasive option; doctors make a small incision in the leg and insert a delivery catheter that, ultimately, places the clip device in the heart to repair the leaky valve.

Commercially available in the U.S. since 2013, and in Europe since 2008, the MitraClip has treated more than 100,000 patients worldwide. Abbott Cardiovascular Public Affairs Director Justin Paquette says the new Indiana site will “ensure we are able to provide the product to any hospital who needs it anywhere in the world.”

Paquette says Abbott Cardiovascular chose Indiana for several reasons, including its central location to distribution hubs, solid local infrastructure for roads and utilities and—top of the list—a strong Hoosier workforce with a life sciences manufacturing heritage.

“In addition to millions of dollars being invested, hundreds of people being hired, [the project] is even more complicated, because [medical devices] is a regulated industry,” says Stemme. “So the company has to be very careful about ensuring there are people in the region who understand the FDA and all of the regulation it will need to comply with to run a successful plant. Indiana has experience and the workforce with life sciences expertise.”

Even before the project was announced, Indiana was “already in the family tree of Abbott Cardiovascular,” says Stemme. In the 1990s, scientists at the Indiana University School of Medicine (IUSM) invented a vascular closure device and licensed it to a startup company in California, and Abbott Cardiovascular acquired the company. The technology, called Perclose ProGlide—invented in Indiana—is now a significant part of Abbott Cardiovascular’s portfolio.

Slated to be fully operational in 2021, the new manufacturing site is expected to create up to 477 jobs, including many higher-level positions such as engineers and regulatory experts. In addition to Abbott’s initial investment, Stemme notes the potential for future expansion could be a boon for Indiana.

“Because FDA compliance and having an FDA literate workforce is so important, companies will typically open a facility and then expand it,” says Stemme. “If you look at other Indiana employers in the life sciences space, you’d see a history of a facility opening, then expanding over the years to accommodate new products; you already have a trained workforce and a facility that’s been approved by the FDA. There’s an opportunity here, and we hope Abbott is able to leverage that and do even more in Indiana.”

 

Stemme says Indiana’s expertise and experience attracted Abbott.

Stemme says Abbott selected Indiana when it could’ve opened a new plant anywhere in the world.