Biogen plans to open a $1 billion manufacturing facility in Switzerland

Biogen plans to open a $1 billion manufacturing facility in Switzerland, to help Europe deal with the future demand for its pipeline products.

Biogen is anticipating future approvals of its pipeline drugs for Alzheimer’s disease and multiple sclerosis, as well as cancers and neurological illnesses. And to create the extra capacity the US firm feels it needs, it plans to add 400 people to its workforce at a custom-built plant in Luterbach, Switzerland, which will be a European manufacturing hub.

The site will be just 120 kilometres from Biogen’s European headquarters in Zug, Switzerland. Work is due to begin at the site later this year and is expected to be completed by 2021, after which the plant will produce biologic components for what the firm hopes will be future blockbuster drugs.

Biogen is currently undergoing strategic changes, having rebranded from Biogen Idec, and after it acquired a $675 pain management portfolio in a deal with UK-based Convergence in 2015. Biogen will soon be reporting Q2 results but missed analysts’ forecasts in the first quarter when its MS drug Tecfidera (dimethyl fumarate) – which has been criticised for its high cost – posted lower-than-predicted first-quarter sales of $824.9 million in 2015.

According to Biogen spokeswoman Kate Niazi-Sai, final sign-off for the company’s expansion plans must come from local officials in Canton Solothurn, one of Switzerland’s 26 states. She said Biogen is working with authorities and the community and anticipates nailing that down by the end of the summer.

“We have a pretty rapidly growing pipeline and a need for increased capacity for those, as well as for our current products,” Niazi-Sai says. “Our only other plant in Europe is in Denmark and we have a large manufacturing presence in the US, in Cambridge and in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina. The advantage of having an extensive manufacturing network is global diversity, so you have backup.”

Lilian Anekwe

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