NOVATO -- BioMarin (Nasdaq: BMRN) has added 100 employees during the last 12 months and looks to expand its 700-member staff even more by 2010, said CEO Jean Jacques Bienaime.

The maker of enzyme-based therapies for rare diseases also saw revenues soar from $120 million in 2007 to $300 million in 2008, the first year it had four consecutive profitable quarters.

BioMarin slipped back into the red for the first quarter of 2009, but according to Mr. Bienaime, the small loss was due to special circumstances that won’t be repeated.

“This year we’re expected to end between a slight loss and break-even, but guidance for 2010 and 2011 shows a significant increase,” he said.

In addition to staff increases, BioMarin is pouring money into improvements of the several buildings it has acquired in Novato.

“We’re currently spending $60 million to double our manufacturing capacity,” he said.

The added capacity will be needed when and if a third iteration of BioMarin’s flagship product for the treatment of mucopolysaccharidosis receives approval from the FDA.

The product, one of seven under pre-clinical development, is expected to find a wider market than the others. Two of the company’s three products are manufactured in Novato.

The manufacturing operation now has the capacity to turn out $500 million worth of product a year.

“If our new treatment is approved by the FDA, it could be on the market by 2013 and be our biggest product,” said Mr. Bienaime.

Because BioMarin’s products address rare diseases, they are usually granted “orphan” status by the FDA to expedite approval.

“When our expansion is complete, we’ll be able to manufacture therapies worth $1 billion,” he said.

BioMarin is also flush with cash. The company has $550 million on hand.

Founded in 1997 with a $1.5 million investment from Glyko Biomedical Ltd., BioMarin went public in 1999 and obtained FDA approval for its first product in 2003. Aldurzyme was co-developed with Genzyme Corp., which markets the drug.

Although BioMarin struggled during its early years, the last few have seen steady growth as its products gain a foothold in a market sector addressed by very few pharmaceutical developers.

“We’re somewhat independent of market cycles,” said Mr. Bienaime, who joined the company in 2005. “Rare diseases don’t answer to economic slowdowns.”