Pioneer Surgical Expands Business

By K.J. Williams
The Daily Reflector

January 20, 2012 – The Greenville-based division of Pioneer Surgical Technology Inc. announced a facility expansion Thursday so it can ramp up its manufacturing capabilities to produce more of three types of bone void filler used in surgical procedures.

The biologic products division is meeting a growing market demand for these types of products, Shane Ray, general manager of Biologics for Pioneer, said.

“It grows at about 20 percent a year,” he said of the bone void filler market. “That’s mainly because the patient population is getting older.”

The material is used to stabilize the spine during surgery. “It’s a scaffold, like a fence that allows parts of bone to come in and grow,” Ray said.

The product also has other uses, including revision surgery, orthopedics and for dental procedures. Sales grew by 54 percent last year.

The division employs 25 people, including scientists, engineers and positions in manufacturing and quality control.

Ray said the division added three employees last year, and expects to add two more this year. If sales continue to grow, another five to 10 employees will be added in the next three years.

The Michigan-based parent company and the start-up that developed the Greenville products together have invested more than $40 million in the venture, he said. Pioneer is a private, stockholder-owned company.

Pitt County, which leases space in the Technology Enterprise Center of Eastern North Carolina, an incubator for industry, outfitted the expansion, said Wanda Yuhas, executive director of the Pitt County Development Commission.

The division now will occupy about 14,000 square feet compared to its previous occupancy of 8,500 square feet.

“It’s genuine bioprocessing,” she said. It demonstrates to prospective industries that Greenville has the infrastructure and job force to meet the needs of technology companies. “This way, we don’t just say we could do it,” Yuhas said. “We are in fact doing it.”

There are other benefits for the county, including more jobs.

“And they are good paying jobs, and they are poised to continue to add employees as their market continues to grow and their market is growing steadily,” she said.

Ray said the company introduced a new product last month, a 3D-shaped bone void filler that provides support to muscles surrounding the spine.

Biologic products are shipped worldwide from the Michigan facility but manufactured solely at the Greenville division that includes a clean room, research and development areas, and laboratory space.

In addition, another product will be relocated to Greenville for manufacturing from Massachusetts, Ray said.

That product only is sold in Europe. It hasn’t undergone clinical trials to obtain U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval for U.S. sales.

Ray, an East Carolina University graduate and Columbus County native who lives in Wake Forest, said the parent company has three divisions but its biologics division is the newest and the fastest growing.

The expansion proves that Greenville can foster this type of industry, Donna Phillips, manager of the eastern regional office of the N.C. Department of Commerce, said.

“This is one of the real jewels,” Phillips said.

Contact K.J. Williams at kwilliams@reflector.com or (252) 329-9588.