Virus response: Baton Rouge biotech firm now producing hand sanitizer

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A Baton Rouge-based biotech company has switched gears from making topical dermatology products to making hand sanitizer and other disinfectants to address the local shortage of those products from COVID-19. 

Owen Biosciences Inc. started producing hand sanitizer and disinfectants 10 days ago, shifting 20% of its manufacturing output to the products last week, says Dane Lejeune, senior vice president for Owen. Now, as the company has seen orders for topical dermatology products decline, it’s shifting 50% to 75% of its manufacturing output to the in-demand products. 

“When coronavirus started, I knew there would be a huge void in the topical disinfectant arena and we slowly began purchasing raw materials to meet that demand,” Lejeune says. “We are selling it faster than what we can make it right now.”

Along with selling the products to large corporations such as Coca-Cola, Owen Biosciences is donating to local agencies like the district attorney’s office and the Baton Rouge Police Department. 

Lejeune expects the company to keep producing hand sanitizer and disinfectants for the next three to four months, adding that as production ramps up, the company is considering hiring an additional three to five employees to add to its 30-person workforce. 

“Being in a niche market that we are, being able to produce these unique products has allowed us to adapt our equipment on the fly to maintain not only capacity, but also keep our workers employed,” Lejeune says. 

Read more stories on how the coronavirus is impacting the Baton Rouge business community. 

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