Fairless Hills will be the location for a new Biomat USA plasma donation center, which is slated to open early next year. Construction has begun on a formerly vacant storefront in the Deon Square Shopping Center on Oxford Valley Road, which itself is undergoing renovation.
Grifols Plasma, which runs around 150 Biomat locations nationwide, is investing $2.5 million on construction for a business it projects will have an economic impact of more than $5 million annually, create around 30 jobs in nursing, administrative and other fields when it opens and provide some small financial incentives for local residents.
But more than that, it will help save lives around the world, while also, according to the company’s public affairs manager Colin Seal, being a positive part of the local community.
Already, Grifols has partnered with the Lower Bucks Family YMCA on fitness programming for the fall and plans to continue working with them next year.
“We don’t want to just be that business on the corner,” he said.
Plasma, the liquid component in blood that holds the red blood cells together, can be used to help people worldwide suffering from everything from trauma to hemophilia and possibly even some neurological disorders.
“There are some of the brightest people in the world constantly studying the proteins of plasma and looking for other ways it can be used. There are studies right now exploring how plasma can be used for Alzheimer’s disease,” said Seal. “The most important thing for us is getting the word out. A lot of people don’t know, but when you see a plasma donation center, there’s an opportunity to save a life.”
The process of donating plasma is similar to that of giving blood, but different enough so that donors can give up to twice a week. But it’s a longer and more complex process, and plasma is in much higher demand. It takes 1,200 donations to treat a hemophilia patient for just one year, for instance.
It also takes nearly a year for a donation to be used for medicine, as the FDA-regulated company must ensure the plasma is healthy and usable at multiple points during the process.
That puts plasma in high demand, and also puts Biomat in a place like Fairless Hills: It’s close to colleges, which often draw donors, and Philadelphia. And, according to CDC data, it’s home to a healthy population with low instances of viral markers like hepatitis or HIV.
To attract those people, Biomat pays around $35 per session per donor, and tries to make their offices safe, inviting places.
“There are a variety of reasons people come in. We get moms just looking for two hours of quiet time, or students come in for their pocket money for the semester,” said Seal. “This isn’t something people are making a car payment on, but it’s a little extra money so they know their time was well spent.”
To extract the plasma, nurses first draw blood, then separate the red blood cells using a centrifuge machine. The red blood cells are returned to the donor’s body and, since the body regenerates plasma on average every 48 hours, donors can come in up to twice a week.
To accommodate those donors, Grifols will soon be hiring phlebotomists and LPN and RN nurses for the new Biomat location, along with other office personnel and management staff. The company plans to start with about 30 people and expand as its donor list grows.
“There will be a lot of opportunities for folks in the immediate area,” said Seal.
For information on plasma donations, visit grifolsplasma.com. Employment opportunities will be posted soon under the “Careers” tab.