Following several months of rumours asking ‘will-they, won’t they,’ Lonza and Teva pulled the plug on their biosimilars relationship in August last year, with Lonza telling Biopharma-Reporter.com at the time capacity previously earmarked for biosimilar development and manufacture to be filled with alternative products.
During a conference call discussing the firm’s end of year 2013 figures, CEO Richard Ridinger was asked whether this capacity at its Visp, Switzerland and Singapore facilities – both of which have experienced significant expansion in recent years – had been filled.
“It was meant to be for biosimilars but at the moment when we [became] aware that we were not able to continue that, the teams went out looking for new contracts and we are in this phase,” he said, adding “it is progressing well” and he is “confident” it will be filled.
For Visp, some capacity will be taken up by customer and production transfers from its Hopkinton, Massachusetts biologics facility which the firm began preparing for phasedown in the third quarter last year.
“The Board of Directors decided to concentrate and consolidate the future Microbial Biologics assets and activities at our Visp [Switzerland] site,” the firm said in its full year report, adding the majority of transfers have been completed.
“Incorporating this microbial [capacity] is more positive than negative,” for the site, Ridinger commented, with reference to jobs, and Lonza also stated further expansion at the site is set to become online mid-2014.
Furthermore, Roche’s breast cancer drug Kadcyla is manufactured from the facility and Ridinger told stakeholders its antibody-drug conjugates (ADCs) technology and manufacturing is a major focus at Visp.
Lonza’s new mammalian cell culture and cell therapy site in Singapore has seen a year of “multiple plant adaptations and more frequent product changeovers than usual in the first half of 2013,” shortening production cycles leading to negative impacts on batch releases and sales, the firm said.
However, the facility – described as being primarily a mammalian plant due to a lack of cell therapy products on the market by Ridinger - saw a lot of interest for its ADC development and manufacturing capabilities, especially from Japan, with a number of new contracts being signed there last year.
In fact, the Asian biopharma market as a whole was deemed encouraging by Lonza, with regional interest in its Gene Expression System GS Xceed representing 25% of its contracts last year.
In North America the system, which uses a version of the CHO cell line lacking the enzyme responsible for adding units of the sugar fucose into the structural backbones of antibody molecules, was also popular, with Pfizer and Sorrento inking agreements last August.
For the full year 2013, the Switzerland-based company reported total sales across all its businesses of CHF 3.58bn ($4bn), a drop of 8.7% from 2012, whilst net profit was halved to CHF 87m. For its pharma and biotech divisions there was an 8% change on topline figures year-on-year, falling to CHF 1.43bn.