Amgen puts the brakes on Irish plant plans

By Anna Lewcock

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Puerto rico, Colorectal cancer

US biotech Amgen has announced plans to delay construction of its
major new manufacturing plant in Cork, Ireland.

Originally due to become operational in 2009, the manufacturing facility will now be several years behind the original schedule, following a "global assessment" of manufacturing needs. "Our original timeline was very aggressive​," a spokesperson for the company said. "We re-assessed our manufacturing capacity needs and found we had more flexibility, and will now be following a more traditional, sequential timeline." ​ The bulk manufacturing facility is now due to become operational in late 2012, with licensing in late 2013, and the formulation, filling and finishing facilities will be operational in late 2013 with licensing in late 2014. The plant will have the same capacity, staffing requirements and capital investment (€0.75bn) as originally forecast, and although the company has slowed its plans for the site, the project has by no means ground to halt and development of the site continues. "There is continued design work at the site, and we will continue to manage and assess the project to see whether plans need to be adapted or accelerated,"​ the spokesperson said. "We are very committed to having a sizeable presence in Ireland." ​ The company was dealt a blow recently with the news that it had to discontinue a trial involving its biologic drug Vectibix (panitumumab) in combination with Genentech's Avastin (bevacizumab) and standard chemotherapy for the treatment of first-line metastatic colorectal cancer. However, the company spokesperson brushed aside suggestions that this development had any impact on the plans for the Cork site, insisting that it was purely down to "a global assessment of manufacturing capacity needs." ​ The Irish site is to be the firm's first European manufacturing facility, already having four sites in North America and another in Puerto Rico. When the company originally announced its intentions to establish a manufacturing plant in Ireland, it said it had been attracted by the "thriving biotechnology community, infrastructure to support biologics manufacturing and attractive business climate."​ Amgen is by no means the first pharma firm to establish a base in Ireland, though the country has been having a turbulent time of late with a number of pharmaceutical companies coming and going in the area in response to industry pressures. The company has itself been focussing on increasing its presence not only in Europe but globally, with expansions of its facilities at the Puerto Rico plant for production of recombinant erythropoietic factors as bulk drug substance among other plans. The company has also opened a variety of offices worldwide and established R&D centres in the US and the UK, as well as opening its new headquarters in Switzerland, all in the last year. Amgen has made clear it intentions to expand its commercial and clinical production capacity, in order to meet customer demand and reduce risks associated with concentrating the formulation, finish and fill operations in Puerto Rico. In addition to the Puerto Rico expansion and construction of the Irish plant, the company announced earlier this year that it would be increasing its use of third party contract manufacturers - presumably it will be these firms that will be taking up any slack during the three year delay until the Cork facility eventually comes on line.

Related topics: Ingredients

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