By Chris Chamers | Photos by Jessica McCafferty
To understand this story, we need to start all the way back to 2021, when Terry Wiley, former President of SterRx, noticed a “built to suit” sign on Murnane Building Contractors’ property. This was a year after COVID started, and its impact could be felt. The demand for SterRx’s products increased as did supply chain issues, which led to an increase in lead time to obtain the raw materials needed for its products. SterRx needed to grow its inventory, but it needed the space to do so. Its current building was growing more crowded with every order.
SterRx started in 2013 with ~20 employees at their 141 Idaho Ave. facility, receiving its 503B registration as an outsourcing facility with the FDA in 2015; one of less than 80 in the United States. Since then it has grown to almost 200 employees and far outgrown their 141 Idaho Ave. building’s original capacity of 20,000 sq ft and 1,200 pallets. It was time to grow their physical space.
According to the FDA, as a 503B SterRx is considered a compounding pharmacy with an outsourcing facility. SterRx has the ability to manufacture large batches to be sold to healthcare facilities directly. Since they are allowed to manufacture larger batches, this lowers their manufacturing costs, leading to lower costs for the end-use customer. 503B facilities are held to high standards and must comply with FDA & other federal regulations, in addition to any state regulations to which they sell to, and maintain full compliance with current good manufacturing practices (cGMP). It’s a full-time job and no small feat.
SterRx started creating their products using the Blow Fill Seal (BFS) method, a technique that reduces contamination by forming the container, filling and sealing it within the closed sterile chamber of the machine, all with minimal personnel intervention. This reduces the chances of contamination during the manufacturing of the drugs. With time, SterRx expanded to offer conventional IV bags as well. While both are automated, they require different processes.
A lot happens within the walls of 141 Idaho Ave. SterRx receives raw materials and meets cGMP-level standards to produce the finished products. With every step, they test to ensure it meets multiple federal and state standards and regulations they are held to. Then, after the bag is filled, it is ready for final testing and distribution. All of the testing is done in-house.
When COVID hit, it became clear SterRx needed more space to grow; their original building was becoming crowded and there wasn’t enough space to hold the raw materials, the automated production line, and the final product. That’s when Murnane Building Contractors came into the picture. When Terry passed the “built to suit” sign on Murnane Building Contractors’ property, he reached out to Patrick Murnane Sr. to explore the possibility of expanding SterRx into their property, growing it into what is now known as 133 Connecticut Avenue.
SterRx and Murnane Building Contractors entered into a “Design-Build” agreement to put up a 60,000 sq. ft. warehouse with office spaces, triple the size of SterRx’s 20,000 sq. ft. warehouse. A “Design-Build” agreement allows for a more efficient and expedited process compared to a “Design-Bid-Build” agreement; a “Design-Bid-Build” agreement requires a bidding process and involves third-party companies, naturally leading to a longer process. Keeping the process between SterRx and Murnane Building Contractors allowed for more flexibility and created space for the nuances of the build to get the attention needed, all without going back to the beginning of the planning stage. Within eight months, the drawings were done and put in for approval by the planning board.
The bulk of the project was the foundation and the shell. Murnane Building Contractors partnered with Jeffords Steel for the steel shell and the insulated metal panels. The steel shell came on time whereas the insulated metal panels caused a hiccup. By September 2021, everyone was feeling the supply chain issues, including Jeffords Steel. Initially quoting the panels becoming available in the spring of 2022, Jeffords Steel and their supplier were able to work with Murnane to supply the insulated metal panels by October 2021 – only a month behind the original schedule.
Then a bigger hiccup happened. NYSEG quoted a delay with delivering a transformer, the earliest becoming available in 2023 — a year after construction was supposed to be completed. Numerous phone calls later, and with some pressure from Murnane Building Construction, NYSEG was able to locate a generator suitable for SterRx’s needs. And given SterRx’s nature, a generator is vital to its needs. In addition, Murnane Building Construction installed two massive, vertical air rotation units inside the warehouse. These fans have the ability to keep the entire building within an 8°F range, what SterRx’s products require.
This build was a collaborative effort with Patrick Murnane II of Murnane Building Contractors and Karen Greene and Sarah McCoy of SterRx working closely together. There were weekly meetings and a lot of face-to-face time. Even with the inevitable delays from factory shutdowns, supply chain delays, and the general stressors of working in manufacturing and healthcare during a global pandemic, it is apparent the level of respect and gratitude within the group of individuals involved in making the building on 133 Connecticut Avenue come to life.
This started with an idea in 2021 and in early March 2023, the building received its official registration. Two years later, with delays and hiccups, SterRx finally has their new building. An additional 60,000 sq ft and 4,400 pallet spaces are now available for SterRx to expand into, for their storage needs and for housing their ever-growing personnel. Now, with their registration in hand, their goal is to move their raw materials and final products into their new home. They plan on keeping their automated processing plant in their original building, as it was originally designed.
McCoy concluded, “We are grateful we were able to remain in a campus-style business where we can see our location, it reduces the time it takes to move our products between sites, and makes the process efficient and smooth.”
141 Idaho Ave.
Plattsburgh, NY 12903