GRAND ISLAND, N.Y. (WIVB) - More than 700 Western New Yorkers work at Thermo Fisher Scientific, but most people in our area probably have never heard of it.
The local Thermo Fisher crew is on the cutting edge of research, development, and manufacturing behind life saving drugs and treatments, and leaders at the Grand Island facility call it a hidden treasure in our area.
Most of the work focuses on something called cell culture media. "The cell is the basic unit of life for any living organism and cell culture media is what we use to provide an artificial environment so cells can grow outside the body," said Steve Gorfien, Senior Director of Cell culture R&D for the Bioproduction Division at Thermo Fisher.
Gorfien explains, there are several major reasons to grow cells in this way. "One is to be able understand how cells work," he said, "and once we know what's going on inside the cells, we can use the cells, for example, as little factories to be able to produce virus so that we can make vaccines that will prevent certain diseases from happening."
"We can also have the cells produce proteins, and the proteins can be used to treat existing diseases like certain types of cancers or enzyme deficiencies," Gorfien added. "And the third reason is a situation where the cells themselves are the product, so a patient has their cells harvested, the cells are modified to be able to attack a certain type of cancer, and then injected back in the patient."
It is fascinating, and complicated, and it takes hundreds of people working in shifts around the clock most days every week to make the cell culture media that pharmaceutical companies and biomedical researchers use for their work.
"Our bioproduction customers will take our media to scale up and convert their products into an injectable type of drug," said Shawn LaBarge, a senior manager and interim site leader at the Grand Island Thermo Fisher site.
The cell culture media is produced in about 70,000 square feet of manufacturing space on Grand Island, in both dry material and large volume liquid manufacturing areas, some of which were added during a major facility expansion just a few years ago.
News 4's Katie Alexander had the opportunity to tour the Grand Island Thermo Fisher facility as part of our ongoing Buffalo Behind the Scenes series. Watch the videos below to see our full Wake Up coverage. APP USERS | Click here to enable videos.
"Our mission here at Thermo Fisher is to enable our customers to make the world, healthier, cleaner and safer," LaBarge told News 4. "We end every meeting with that mission statement, and the team takes a lot of pride in what we do here every day."
Thermo Fisher is hiring for several open positions. To learn more about job opportunities in the Grand Island facility or at facilities around the world, go to http://jobs.thermofisher.com/