New plant pushes Novo's biopharma plans forward

By Anna Lewcock

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Novo nordisk Growth hormone Novo

Novo Nordisk has inaugurated its new pilot plant for
biopharmaceutical products in Denmark in its latest move to expand
its presence in biopharmaceuticals.

The new plant is an extension of the company's existing facility in Hillerød, and will be used to develop and manufacture new biopharmaceutical products based on proteins cultured in mammalian cells. The pilot plant is the result of a DKK350m (€47m) investment and will consist of a 3,500 square metre area with development and production facilities. The first investigational compounds to be manufactured at the site will be antibodies for cancer therapies, in keeping with Novo's plans to establish a foothold in oncology and inflammation treatments. The existing plant is used for the production of Novo's leading biopharmaceutical product NovoSeven (recombinant activated clotting factor VII), the only recombinant treatment option available for haemophilia patients with inhibitors. The extension provides an area exclusively for the development of new products, and production of drugs for clinical trials. While not manufacturing on a commercial scale, the pilot plant is set to significantly increase the company's capacity for producing investigational products for clinical trials, according to Novo executive vice president Mads Krogsgaard Thomsen. "The new plant will strengthen the business within haemostasia, and will also provide an opportunity to join a new area within immunotherapy based on mammalian cell production,"​ a spokesperson for the company told In addition to its established position in the diabetes care market (the source of the majority of the company's revenue), Novo is also active in producing haemostasis treatments, growth hormone therapies and hormone replacement therapies. A more recent move has been into oncology and inflammation, with this latest investment aiming to strengthen the focus in this area. The company's aim is to have several products in the clinical pipeline by 2008, and it already has two compounds in clinical trials. Both cancer therapies, the first is a compound licensed from ZymoGenetics for the treatment of malignant melanoma currently in Phase II studies, and the second is a fully human IgG4 monoclonal antibody to be used to treat acute myeloid leukaemia, currently in Phase I. Inflammation targets for the company include rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, atopic dermatitis and SLE, an autoimmune disease. "The strategy is firstly to use and develop the company's existing knowledge of proteins and autoimmune diseases and secondly to position Novo Nordisk as a preferred biotech partner for firms with complementary skills,"​ the company's annual report reads. While the new facility reinforces Novo's commitment to biopharmaceuticals, this new direction the company is taking is perhaps unlikely to make a significant impact on revenues any time soon. "Diabetes products accounts for three quarters of our annual sales so it [biopharmaceuticals] won't make a huge difference in the short term, and maybe not in the long term because the diabetes market is so strong,"​ was told. Diabetes care products generated DKK27.9bn for Novo over 2006, and while the company's biopharma sales did show strong growth, it still only totalled DKK10.9bn, half of which came from sales of NovoSeven.

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