A small niche of the global pharmaceuticals sector, the plasma industry manufactures life-saving drugs using living cells found within human blood. Medications built on blood plasma generally treat diseases that are relatively rare. Still, it's a fast-growing market sector, projected to expand from worldwide sales of $31.4 billion in 2021 to $45.7 billion by 2027.

Keeping up with this demand requires plasma centers to collect more than 40 million liters per year from donors around the world. Perhaps partly because the U.S. allows companies to pay for plasma donations and partly because of the strict U.S. regulations around blood-plasma quality, about 70 percent of the world's supply comes through the United States' more than 1,000 plasma centers. Once these organizations collect blood, they separate the plasma from the white and red blood cells, returning all but the protein-rich plasma to the donor. Then they freeze the plasma at a temperature of -35° to  -40° Celsius or colder, so that it retains the chemical characteristics which make plasma so valuable.

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Meg Waters

Meg Waters is the editor in chief of Treasury & Risk. She is the former editor in chief of BPM Magazine and the former managing editor of Business Finance.