WINSLOW — A poultry vaccine manufacturer officially opened a multimillion-dollar facility Wednesday afternoon that will produce autogenous vaccines at its site on China Road.

The new facility at Elanco Animal Health is the first in the nation that will separate autogenous vaccine operations from commercial operations, according to Milson Gondim, vice president of vaccine manufacturing for Elanco.

Built in only eight months, according to Gondim, the $7 million facility is dedicated to manufacturing autogenous vaccines, which are created specifically for individual farms, as opposed to commercial vaccines.

“We are setting the standard here in the industry,” Gondim said in an interview after the ribbon-cutting. “This is a full, dedicated, state-of-the-art facility for autogenous vaccines.”

To create autogenous vaccines, farmers bring their disease challenges to Elanco, which isolates the disease’s viral pathogens and uses them to create vaccines specific to a farm’s flocks. While commercial vaccines cover 75 percent or more of diseases, Tim Hopson, district sales manager for Elanco, said there are “certain challenges that commercial vaccines don’t cover.”

Autogenous vaccines also can be used when a flock’s disease has become resistant to commercial vaccines. Sometimes the challenges evolve to get past the vaccine pathogen, Hopson said, so an autogenous vaccine “allows us to cover that shift.”

Autogenous vaccines can be used for problems that affect both poultry health and food safety, Hopson said.

Elanco bought Lohmann Animal Health International, Inc., the former owner of the Winslow site, in 2014.

“This is a new benchmark,” Gondim said during the ceremony. “This could only really be done with the enthusiasm of the team here in Winslow, in Maine.”

Gondim said the company chose the site in Winslow for the facility, the company’s first dedicated to autogenous vaccines, because it has “the capability and the people and the knowledge” for the job.

According to Grace McArdle, site director for the Elanco facility in Winslow, fewer than five people were hired for the addition because it’s meant to be a cross-functional facility to provide current employees with more opportunities.

It will increase the turnover rate for making the vaccines as well as prevent potential contamination risks that come with working on commercial and autogenous vaccines in one area, said Hopson.

The time it takes to make this kind of vaccine varies based on the type of pathogens involved, but Hopson said the new facility should speed the process up. Before the advent of the new building, Elanco was trying to fit the autogenous process amid its commercial vaccine manufacturing process.

“Finding space was a limiting factor,” Hopson said.

Elanco Animal Health, which sells many products in more than 70 countries, employs 120 people full time at the Winslow site, which has $33 million in capital assets.

The new facility is one in a string of recent upgrades that Elanco, a division of Eli Lilly and Company, has made to the Winslow site.

In 2016, it started a composting facility, built six new poultry houses and began the process of upgrading its laboratory building.

The company has attributed its recent growth to a tax-increment financing district created by town officials.

Madeline St. Amour — 861-9239

[email protected]

Twitter: @madelinestamour

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