The Los Angeles landscape has gone through myriad changes over the past 60 years; however, many landmarks remain.
This includes Baxter International Inc's plasma-fractionation facility, which has evolved significantly over the past six decades—through expansions, upgrades to its fractionation and processing capabilities, and increases in output.
Throughout the many developments in state-of-the-art technology and processes at the facility, which celebrates its 60th anniversary this year, there has always been one priority—to safely process quality treatments or medicines that save and sustain lives, ensuring that patients have consistent access to therapies derived from the plasma processed there.
"When we look back, we have a lot to be proud of," says Chester Zelaya, plant manager at Baxter's Los Angeles facility. "Our history of innovation has supplied millions of people with treatments that help them have a better life."
Considered one of the world's largest and most advanced plasma-fractionation facilities, Baxter's Los Angeles site specializes in extracting, purifying and processing therapeutic proteins from human plasma that treat rare, chronic, often genetic diseases such as hemophilia, primary immunodeficiencies and alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency, as well as acute conditions such as burns and shock.
Plasma, available only through qualified donors, is a limited and precious resource—it takes more than 130 plasma donations to treat just one immune deficient patient for one year. The time between plasma donation and final therapeutic protein can take up to nine months, which makes it imperative that the Los Angeles facility has efficient processes in place to maximize the treatments made from the donated plasma and ensure that they are produced in a timely manner so patients can get the therapies they need, when they need it.
"Baxter has a comprehensive portfolio of plasma-derived therapies that address patients' needs," says Julie Kim, Baxter's global franchise head, BioTherapeutics. "By continuing to invest in our plasma processing facilities, we're able to support the global need we've seen for these therapies."
Recently, the L.A. site made several updates to its 269,000-square-feet of processing space. In addition to a new central hub that includes office space for support departments and a new cafeteria for the more than 1,300 people who work at the facility, the plant installed new bottle washers, expanded the critical systems that produce reverse osmosis water and water for injection used in processing, and installed a fourth ultra filtration-diafiltration system.
"Upgrades were needed at the L.A. plant to allow us to maintain reliable supply for the patients we support," says Zelaya. "Now, our plant serves over 10,000 more patients per year with IG therapy in 2013 than in 1999."
Focus on sustainability
In addition to maintaining a focus on patients, the plant is also mindful of its impact on its environment and community. The facility has received several awards and recognitions for its commitment to environmental health and safety, including Environmental Resources Management Certification and Validation Services (ERM/CVS) certification for ISO 14001. In 2010, the facility received certification to the OHSAS 180001 Occupation Health and Safety Assessment Series for health and safety management systems. In 2009, the facility became the first biologics plant to win a prestigious Shingo Bronze Medallion for Operational Excellence.
The facility also collaborates with an external waste management company to address waste plasma, a biohazardous medical waste that would otherwise be autoclaved and disposed of in a landfill. Plasma paste is instead sent to the East Bay Municipal Utility District in Oakland, Calif., where a multiple-stage process safely breaks down the material and generates methane gas, which is then used as an energy source that supplies 90% of the wastewater treatment plant's energy needs. Other types of waste, including waste albumin and 24% alcohol solution, are also processed so they can be reused as fertilizer on non-food crop agricultural fields. Plastic bottles and bags that hold plasma paste are recycled into reusable plastics. Last year, 1,000 metric tons of material was reused or recycled, generating an estimated 80,000 kWh of energy.
The Los Angeles plant is also dedicated to leaving a positive mark on its community. Employees volunteer throughout the year at several local organizations, including Ascencia, The Downtown Women's Center, The Dream Center's Mobile Food Truck Program, Friends of LA River, Hemophilia Foundation of Southern California, Griffith Park-Park and Recs, The Help Group, Hillsides, Hope of the Valley, Immune Deficiency Foundation Operation Gratitude, MEND-Meet Each Need with Dignity, ONEgeneration, Painted Turtle and TreePeople.
Looking toward the future
Through a focus on biotech innovation, processing excellence, and sustainable practices, Baxter's Los Angeles facility strives to continue making a meaningful impact on the patients who rely on its plasma-derived therapies.
"As we celebrate our 60 years, we remember that this is a never ending journey with opportunities to still grow," notes Zelaya. "However, we have the tools and the talent to create a great organization, and by making these important investments, we position the L.A. plant for success in the future."