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Novartis plans major expansion of French antibody facility

Project aims to boost capacity by 70% and create new jobs

Novartis logo day 

Novartis has set aside $100m to expand a production facility for monoclonal antibody (Mab) drugs in France, planning to boost capacity by 70%.

Set up in 2005, the site in Huningue is already one of the world's largest production facilities for monoclonal antibodies from mammalian cells, manufacturing antibodies used in marketed asthma, anti-inflammatory and anti-rejection drugs, as well as antibodies in late-stage clinical development.

Novartis has now awarded a new contract to Jacobs Engineering Group that will see new cell culture bioreactors installed on the site as well as a second purification line that will allow two drugs to be manufactured in parallel.

Building flexibility into biomanufacturing facilities has become a key objective for big pharma companies as they try to reduce overheads and boost profitability in the face of rising pressure on revenues.

The move also points to the strength of Novartis' late-stage pipeline, which includes several novel antibody candidates as well as biosimilar versions of existing Mab-based products. Biologics currently account for around a third of the company's entire pipeline.

The new expansion project is expected to take four years to complete, with the new production equipment in situ by the beginning of next year and commercial operations due to start by the end of 2018. 

The current headcount at the plant - located in the Alsace region of France - is about 430. Around 100 new jobs will be created in 2019-2020 as a result of the expansion, according to Philippe Barrois, chief executive of Novartis' French pharma subsidiary. Since 2000, Novartis has invested around €266m on the site.

The investment programme is a boost to the French pharma sector, which has been affected by subdued economic growth in recent years that has lagged behind its European peers and cut into spending on healthcare. 

According to BMI Research a lack of structural reform in France has diminished the country's appeal to pharma investors of late, although it expects a return to pharma market growth in 2017.

That seems to be improving sentiment for pharma investors. In April, Novo Nordisk also announced a €100m-plus investment in production facilities at a site in Chartres in order to meet the increasing worldwide demand for its diabetes medicines.

Article by
Phil Taylor

15th August 2016

From: Research

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