When the foundation stones were laid at the Devens, Massachusetts facility in 2007, Bristol Myers-Squibb (BMS) originally estimated a long-term investment of up to $1.1bn would be needed to produce Orencia (abatacept) – a rheumatoid arthritis medication – and to accommodate the company’s future biologic pipeline. With an initial cost of $750m, this latest investment is moving the plant close to its expected capability.
This latest investment “is designed to accelerate the development and launch of new products by better aligning the company’s biologics development and manufacturing capabilities,” according to B-MS spokesman John Patella, speaking with in-Pharmatechnologist.com.
He added that: “We decided to centralize these activities at Devens given our existing capital investment there" explaining that biologics development will be a new capability at Devens which, since its completion in 2009, has concentrated solely on large-scale, bulk production.
“Devens currently manufactures the active drug ingredient for Orencia,” Patella said “what future products may be manufactured there is unknown.”
He went on to say that BMS has “five approved biologic medicines on the market (Nulojix, Yervoy, Orencia, Erbitux and Recothrom) that are a key part of [its] future growth,” as biologics become “increasingly important in the treatment of serious diseases.”
The expansion will include the construction of two new buildings dedicated to process manufacturing and clinical manufacturing, adding 200,000 sq ft of laboratory and office space to the site, which is expected to be completed in 2015.
B-MS expects the investment to create around 350 jobs, which contracts with last weeks news that the closure of a former Amylin facility in San Diego will result in 300 redundancies.
Last year, the Devens site received approval from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to produce Orencia on a commercial scale and, at the time, Lou Schmukler - president, of Global Manufacturing & Supply at BMS – said “the increased manufacturing capacity from the Devens site will support market demand for Orencia.”
Prior to this accreditation, BMS had been manufacturing biologics from its Syracuse, New York facility - a site never intended to manufacture commercial supplies of such products long-term - and through a number of third party manufacturers, including Lonza and Korean company Celltrion.
In 2007, B-MS extended the Lonza contract - which is due to expire at the end of this year - while construction of the Devens plant was ongoing.
However, when asked if the completion of Devens and this subsequent investment was part of a strategy to reel manufacture back in-house, Patella said: “In-sourcing is not at issue.”