Robert S. Abrams, Chairman & CEO of SiO2, relocated his companies from upstate New York to Auburn 25 years ago. In 2012, SiO2 began the process of developing lightweight and durable vials for new biotech drugs. Now, seven of the top 10 drugs are biotech and in 10 years, the greatest percentage of new drugs will be of this new class of medicine. SiO2 borrowed $70 million from the RSA to build a research and manufacturing facility in Auburn for producing revolutionary biomedical containers that fuse the benefits of glass and plastic without the drawbacks of either. This 8% loan was secured with 37 patents, intellectual property, stock, and other company assets. SiO2’s shatterproof containers can withstand 1,500 pounds of direct force and extreme temperatures. They are ideally suited for vaccines and drugs treating cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and macular degeneration. They are also effective blood collection tubes with improved safety and reliability throughout collection and processing.

SiO2 received a $143 million federal grant in June 2020, as part of Operation Warp Speed, to increase employees and manufacturing space for producing containers for COVID-19 vaccines. SiO2 now provides the safest package for storing and distributing the DNA/mRNA vaccines. In September 2020, SiO2 contracted with the Canadian government to supply vials for 80 million vaccine doses. SiO2 received a $65 million contract from the U.S. Department of Defense to produce 10 million vials per month by July 2024. SiO2 has developed 550 patents and 8,000 patent claims and their products are used in 185 countries around the world.

Doosan Corp., one of South Korea’s largest conglomerates, recently invested $100 million in Si02 for a partnership to distribute SiO2 products in Asia. Lawrence Ganti, president of Si02 said, “South Korea has become a world leader in biological drug manufacturing and Asia composes a significant market for vials and syringes designed for biologic drugs and vaccines.”

SiO2’s Auburn facilities now employ over 600 people with salaries three times the level in Alabama when it depended heavily on textiles. SiO2 looks to have a strong market for the next 20 years and makes Auburn the center of the world for further development of biotech products. SiO2 will eventually have an annual payroll in excess of $100 million which will benefit Alabama, especially the Auburn University area where many of the scientists will have been educated.

SiO2 recently paid the RSA $128 million (initial loan with 8% interest). The RSA still retains 12+% of stock with the company currently valued at over $1.8 billion. Abrams stated to me, “It is a significant tribute to the foresight and ability of RSA to invest in companies that will not only provide the pension fund with good return on investment, but bring important work to the state.”

Dr. Mark Fagan is Professor and Head, Emeritus; Department of Sociology and Social Work at Jacksonville State University. He has written six books and many articles over 38 years.