Lonza has been asked by BMS to continue making the active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) for its rheumatoid arthritis biologic drug, Orencia (abatacept) until the end of 2013. Orencia was launched in the US in February 2006 and since May of that year Lonza has been supplementing the manufacturing of commercial supplies of the API for BMS, whose plant in Syracuse, New York, is not producing enough to meet demand. Under the terms of the original contract, Lonza was to produce the API in its Portsmouth, New Hampshire, facility until the end of 2009, while BMS built a new $660m (€500m) plant to make biologic products in the US. "The Syracuse facility was never intended to produce commercial quantities of biologic medicines," Jeff Macdonald of BMS told In-PharmaTechnologist.com in an earlier interview. BMS has earmarked $660m for the construction of the new facility, with building work expected to begin in the next few weeks. If all goes well the site should be ready for operation in 2009, and the company plans to submit the site for regulatory approval in 2010 ready for commercial production to begin in 2011. Despite original plans for construction of the plant to begin in September last year, the company maintains its original timelines for completion of the facility. However, the recent contract extension with Lonza would appear to suggest otherwise. BMS was unavailable for comment before the time of publishing. Biologic drugs like Orencia, that suppress inflammation-causing immune system cells, or cytokines, are new to the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, a disease that afflicts almost 3m Americans and has created a global market for innovative drugs projected to reach $10bn by 2008. Orencia therefore has potential to be a huge earner for both BMS and Lonza, since it is indicated for patients who do not respond to tumour necrosis factor (TNF) antagonists, and so faces direct competition only from Rituxan (rituximab), a cancer drug made by Genentech, which was approved in February last year to treat rheumatoid arthritis.