Abbott's new biotech plant on the 'Bio Island' good to go

By Anna Lewcock

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Puerto rico Abbott

US pharma Abbott has announced the opening of its new state-of
the-art biologics manufacturing plant in Puerto Rico.

The 330,000 sq. ft plant boasts 12,000-litre bioreactor tanks and over 80 tanks and vessels for growing cells.

The facility will now be the primary production site for Abbott's monoclonal antibody treatment, Humira (adalimumab), and large-scale manufacture of future products requiring advanced manufacturing technologies.

The new facility, Abbott Biotechnology Limited (ABL), has significantly greater manufacturing capacity than the site previously used by the company for Humira production in Worcester, Massachusetts.

"The Worcester facility will now serve as a supporting production facility for Humira and will focus on Abbott's growing biologics research and development portfolio," a spokesperson for the company told

"These include ABT-874, our investigational anti-interleukin-12/anti-interleukin-23 biologic for autoimmune diseases (psoriasis and Crohn's disease) in Phase II development, and a number of additional biologic compounds."

The plant, which is the result of Abbott's single largest capital investment to date coming in at $450m (€336m), is located in Barceloneta in Puerto Rico and further increases the company's presence in a region that is becoming known as the Bio Island.

US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval to commercially produce Humira at the site for the US market was received in February this year, with the European Agency for the Evaluation of Medicinal Products (EMEA) currently reviewing the company's application.

Abbott expects approval within the next few months.

It has taken the company four years to get the new biotech facility up and running, two years in construction and two to validate and obtain regulatory approval.

The plant brings the company's total investment in Puerto Rico to over $1bn since establishing itself on the island in 1968.

Other operations in the region include manufacturing facilities at Jayuya and Dorado, as well as a number of commercial and distribution centres in the region.

Alongside Humira, the only biologic currently being manufactured by the company in the area, Abbott also manufactures pharmaceutical products including Biaxin (clarithromycin), Depakote (divalproex), erythromycin and Synthroid (levothyroxine)

Abbott is by no means the only pharma company who has been lured to the Bio Island, which offers a variety of tax incentives that make it an attractive option for firms looking for a cost effective setting for their operations.

Depending on the location on the island, for example, companies can benefit from income and property tax reductions for periods of 10 to 25 years, as well as a variety of other incentives that make the region an increasingly popular destination.

According to the Pharmaceutical Industry Association of Puerto Rico, there are currently 19 pharmaceutical companies with operations on the island, with 36 manufacturing and 17 commercial sites between them.

In 2003, Eli Lilly established the first bulk biotechnology plant on the island, and has continued investing in its Puerto Rico operations ever since, only last year celebrating the start of operations at its most recent site in the region, purportedly one of the world's largest biotech operations.

Alongside Lilly and Abbott sit other major firms such as Pfizer, Bristol-Myers Squibb, and US biotech firm Amgen, who last year announced a $1bn fund dedicated to the expansion of the company's manufacturing facilities in Puerto Rico, with the upgrades due to be complete by 2010.

"Abbott's new facility expands Puerto Rico's growing presence as the Bio Island ," said Governor of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, Anibal Acevedo-Vila.

"[Puerto Rico's] unique combination of incentives, skilled workforce, strong infrastructure and excellent business climate enable us to partner with global industry leaders like Abbott.

With the growing presence of Abbott and others, we have the necessary tools to become a global leader in biotechnology as well."

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