MedImmune in $250m biologics plant expansion

By Gregory Roumeliotis

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Medimmune Biotechnology

MedImmune has embarked on an expansion of its biologics
manufacturing facility in Frederick, Maryland, to ramp up its cell
culture production capacity, as several of its monoclonal
antibodies (MAbs) approach commercialisation.

The $250m (€197m) expansion is the first phase of a four-stage construction project aimed at increasing capacity for childhood respiratory drug Synagis (palivizumab), the first monoclonal antibody approved in the US to help prevent an infectious disease, as well as other MAbs in MedImmune's pipeline such as Numax (motavizumab) for the treatment of serious lower respiratory tract disease.

With approximately one-fourth of new drugs coming on the market being biopharmaceuticals and annual sales projected to surpass $52bn by 2010, MedImmune is eager to cash in on the popularity and effectiveness of MAb-based medicines.

The investment in the Frederick site will provide two additional commercial-scale bioreactors used to manufacture MAbs and will also include 331,000 square feet of office, laboratory and manufacturing space to accommodate up to 225 additional employees.

After Phase 1 of the project is completed in late 2009, the remaining phases will bring approximately 379,000 square feet of additional space, creating potentially 840 new jobs in Maryland.

"This groundbreaking highlights MedImmune's leadership in the state's biotechnology industry and its expertise in cell culture-based manufacturing,"​ said Bernardus Machielse, senior vice presiden of operations for MedImmune.

"Our decision to expand the Frederick site was facilitated in part by our cooperative relationship with state and local government."

MedImmune will use the Frederick facility to develop cell culture-based seasonal and pandemic vaccines in accordance with the $170m five-year contract it won recently from the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

To date, MedImmune says it has purchased the raw materials and equipment, such as structural steel and bioreactors, needed for the expanded facility.

The Gaithersburg-based company has also designated Parsons as the architectural firm responsible for the design of its new facility.

"We are pleased that MedImmune has chosen to remain an anchor in Marylandss biotechnology corridor by expanding its existing manufacturing center,"​ said Robert Ehrlich, the state's governor.

"With outstanding private sector companies such as MedImmune, world-renowned academic and research facilities and a workforce second to none, Maryland is truly poised to be the biotech capital of the world."

However, learned last month that an upcoming report on what more Maryland can do to attract a major cell culture vaccine manufacturing facility will pour cold water on the state's dream of becoming biotech capital of the world.

While MedImmune and other Maryland-based firms have committed to building manufacturing plants in the state, Novartis's snub over a $600m vaccine plant and its selection of North Carolina shows that the state needs to raise its game if it is to become more competitive and attract outside investment.

Maryland has a wealth of good manufacturing practice (GMP) related technologies and capabilities, including a GMP training center at the University of Maryland Biotechnology Institute (UMBI) and a pilot GMP facility at the National Institute of Health (NIH) Vaccine Research Center.

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