AstraZeneca PLC Will Invest $285 Million in Biotech Drug Factory, Create Up to 250 Jobs

Published: May 19, 2015

AstraZeneca PLC Will Invest $285 Million in Biotech Drug Factory, Create Up to 250 Jobs
May 18, 2015
By Riley McDermid, Breaking News Sr. Editor

AstraZeneca PLC will shell out $285 million to create a new drug manufacturing site in Sodertalje, Sweden, as the company attempts to crank out drugs to be used in clinical trials, it said Monday. The plant will bring 150 to 250 “highly skilled” new jobs to AstraZeneca by 2019.

The company already has a manufacturing facility in Sodertalje, which is its largest site for producing capsules and tablets. But with a renewed interest in injectables, particularly biotech drugs, it has become clear AstraZeneca is intent on nurturing what now comprises half of its total pipeline.

The new Swedish site is slated to be creating finished products for commercial use once by 2019, when it is fully functional, and will focus on the filling and packaging of protein therapeutics.

“This is a strategically important investment for AstraZeneca to support the accelerating development of biotech medicines, which now make up around half of our pipeline,” said Pascal Soriot, chief executive officer, in a statement. “We expect to bring a significantly increased number of new specialty care medicines to patients in the coming years, driven in large part by biologics. This new plant will give us greater capacity and flexibility to handle clinical trials, and will also play an important role in our future commercial production."

The company’s facilities in the area are located in Snäckviken and Gärtuna, which are also the headquarters for AstraZeneca’s Nordic-Baltic marketing company. Around 3,800 employees, with 35 percent of AstraZeneca’s total sales value coming from its Swedish operation. In 2013, AstraZeneca’s exports of medicines from Sweden totaled $4.74 billion, or around 3.5 percent of total Swedish exports.

Last week AstraZeneca PLC (AZN) said it will also be re-upping its commitment to personalized healthcare, saying Wednesday that it has two new projects in the works that will focus on heart disease and respiratory illness, a departure from the area’s usual focus on cancer treatments.

The first of these will take place in partnership with Montreal Heart Institute which will search the genomes of up to 80,000 patients for genes associated with cardiovascular diseases and diabetes. The second comes per a new deal with Abbott Laboratories for a diagnostic test to accompany an experimental asthma drug, in order to find patients who might benefit from AstraZeneca’s Phase III antibody drug tralokinumab.

The samples parsed by the MHI will include both tissue and blood samples which have been collected over a period of 12 years by AstraZeneca under informed consent from patients who have entered clinical trials to test cardiovascular or diabetes treatments.

Specialists in the field lauded the decision, saying the advances made in recent years make now an ideal window to start creating “companion diagnostics.”

"The time is now right to extend the personalized healthcare approach and the benefits it brings to all of our therapy areas, "Ruth March, who heads the initiative at AstraZeneca, told reporters. "Up to now the science of personalized healthcare has been slower to reach those common disease areas such as cardiovascular and respiratory disease."

The two partnerships are only the latest of what has been a string of recent deals done by AstraZeneca to broaden its reach and pipeline assets.

White-hot venture capital and venture creation firm Flagship Ventures is having a stellar week, saying Tuesday it has formed three new strategic partnerships with AstraZeneca PLC (AZN), Nestlé Health Science and Bayer CropScience, as a raging biotech sector continues to roar. Flagship, which manages $1.4 billion in capital, is perhaps best known for the eight successful IPOs it HAS backed in the past two years, as well as the formation of 27 companies to date.

The new partnerships also include an investment in Flagship Ventures Fund V, a $537 million venture capital fund that closed in March 2015.

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