NEW CASTLE – Accredo Health Group, a specialty pharmacy owned by health insurance giant Cigna, is planning a major expansion of its operations in Delaware.
Unlike a corner-store pharmacy, Accredo primarily makes high-value medicines that often have multiple components and temperature requirements. Those medicines treat complex and chronic health conditions, including cancer, hepatitis C, HIV, bleeding disorders and multiple sclerosis.
The company currently employs 87 people at a leased 34,000-square-foot facility in New Castle, but it is planning on expanding to a 200,000-square-foot facility in the Newark area. Its lease at the Boulden Interchange Park is set to expire in 2025, and Accredo plans to consolidate its operations in the expansion, said Josh Kurtz, global head of real estate strategy for Cigna.
While a lease at that new facility is still under negotiation, Kurtz told the state’s job investment board, the Council on Development Finance (CDF), that it planned on adding up to 132 jobs over the next four years.
The additional jobs would help Accredo expand its fulfillment and move its shipping operations in house. New positions would include pharmacists, pharmacy technicians, warehouse associates and managers, with a reported average annual salary of $60,000.
The new facility could be ready as early as October, but would require a significant fit-out for its specialty use, Kurtz said. That includes $20 million in technology that is designed in house for assembling, packaging and shipping the medications.
“It’s definitely an expensive venture,” Kurtz said. “We really want to get going fast.”
Delaware reportedly is competing against Florida, Arizona and the Midwest for the expansion project, but approval of state grant support would help land the project, according to John Lenio, executive vice president of real estate brokerage CBRE who was assisting Cigna on the project.
He also said that a favorable tax structure and regulatory environment, as well as a simpler licensing process for pharmacists compared to Maryland, helped the First State
To support the hiring and construction, the state’s job investment board, the Council on Development Finance (CDF), approved on Monday a total grant from the taxpayer-backed Strategic Fund of $4.62 million. It marks the largest grant package approved by the CDF this year, just eclipsing the $4.5 million approved in June for Agile Cold Storage.
That specifically includes $540,000 in a job retention grant, $1.15 million for a job creation grant, $250,000 for a workforce training grant, and about $2.67 million in a capital expenditure grant.
Kurtz explained during Monday’s hearing that the need to expand operations was based on two growth areas: biosimilar drugs and gene therapy drugs.
The former is also known as generic drugs for biologics, which Cigna hopes will help to reduce costs for patients, while the latter is genetically modified medications that treat rare disorders that haven’t been addressed by traditional medicines.
Accredo aims to have at least half of its new facility in operation by the end of 2024, Kurtz said.