This is good news for Lonza, which recently completed a major expansion of its manufacturing capacity at a time when sales declined in its contract manufacturing business.
The company's biotechnology businesses have been affected by delays and failures of customer products late in clinical development. Indeed, biotechnology was particularly hit by excess capacity in Lonza's 2,000L and 5,000L reactors, at a time when the group has unveiled a major investment in a 60,000L expansion at its Portsmouth facility in the US.
Rituxan is a great contract for the Swiss firm, as it is still very much in its growth phase. In the third quarter, Genentech reported that sales of Rituxan reached $354 million, an increase of more than a third over the same period of 2002. The drug first reached the market in 1997.
Moreover, this represents the first new contract for the additional capacity at Lonza that related to a commercialised product, rather than one in clinical trials which runs the risk of failure.
"With this agreement, our new large scale facility in Portsmouth is nearly fully utilised," said Lonza chief executive Markus Gemuend in a statement.