With more than 10 facilities in China, WuXi AppTec is more exposed to the disruption stemming from the coronavirus outbreak than many other contract research organizations (CRO). However, the scale and global nature of WuXi’s operation, which features 15 facilities across the US, Europe and Middle East, also creates opportunities to mitigate disruption in particular geographies.
WuXi is now trying to put that idea into practice. After an extended New Year holiday, most of WuXi’s Chinese sites are now back up and running. The sole exception is a small molecule drug discovery site in Wuhan, the geographic focus of the outbreak and subject of the strictest restrictions imposed by the Chinese government.
The Wuhan site will remain closed until local regulations permit it to reopen. As such, drug discovery and research projects booked by WuXi’s clients at Wuhan cannot move forward until the government lifts the restrictions it imposed on the city to curb the spread of the virus.
WuXi plans to reassign the work to other sites. The CRO has four small molecule drug discovery and research facilities in China, including the Wuhan site. With three of those facilities now operating again, WuXi says it has capacity in China to support projects initiated at Wuhan.
However, WuXi is also looking to its US sites to take up the slack. WuXi intends to expand in the US to “accommodate additional laboratory work,” with a view to mitigating the impact of the Wuhan site closure.
In a statement to disclose the expansion plan, WuXi said it has seven sites in the US, some of which feature multiple facilities. The US sites employ 1,600 people.
However, according to WuXi’s descriptions of the facilities, only one of the locations handles small molecule R&D. Another US facility provides services for drug discovery, research and development.
Both those facilities are in San Diego, California. WuXi expanded its San Diego operation in 2018 to create a center of excellence in screening, discovery biology, pharmacology and small molecule process R&D. The CRO framed the expansion as enabling it to provide “key elements” of its small molecule platform from a single facility.