Moderna, GSK, Sanofi, AstraZeneca and BioNTech Expand Global Ops

Construction Site

It's been a busy month for big biopharma companies looking to further expand operations, with the likes of Moderna, AstraZeneca, Sanofi and more setting up new facilities internationally. BioSpace looks at some of these moves below.

Moderna Sets Up mRNA Center In The UK

Moderna signed a deal with the U.K. government to build an mRNA innovation and technology center in the country. The agreement, in principle, allows for the creation of a state-of-the-art mRNA vaccine manufacturing facility to strengthen the company's ability to respond to pandemic crises rapidly. 

Included in the list of vaccine development programs planned for the new center are those for COVID-19, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and seasonal influenza. The facility will be activated on an urgent basis as part of the U.K. government's 100 Days Mission to manage future pandemics. 

"We are excited to be able to continue our collaboration with the U.K. government and Vaccine Taskforce with this new mRNA Innovation and Technology Center in the U.K. The U.K. has established a world-class life sciences and research community,"  St├ęphane Bancel, chief executive of Moderna, commented in a statement. 

Further investment into research and development, including exploring an Omicron-containing booster candidate, are among the plans for the new U.K. center. 

AstraZeneca Chooses China For COPD Inhaler Production Plant

At the 3rd MNC Leaders Qingdao Summit, AstraZeneca announced plans to expand investment activities in China, starting with the construction of a production and supply facility that will serve as its regional headquarters in Qingdao, Shandong. 

The new facility will focus on research and development efforts for rare disease treatments. It will include a life science innovation park and an industrial fund. 

In the same event, AstraZeneca said it would build a Budigford inhalation aerosol production and supply center in the Qingdao High-tech Industrial Development Zone that will become the company's second-largest facility in the country. Its other existing production plants are in Wuxi and Taizhou, Jiangsu. 

"...To further promote the development of Qingdao's biopharmaceutical industry and contribute to the National Health Vision 2030, AstraZeneca will continue to strengthen its confidence in increasing investment in China," Wang Lei, AstraZeneca's global executive vice president and China president, said. 

AstraZeneca has been doing business in the Chinese market for the past 30 years.

GSK Sets Up Smart Factory in the UK

GlaxoSmithKline has opened a new aseptic smart manufacturing facility at its Barnard Castle location, featuring fully automatic capabilities to boost efficiency in the production of medications for commercial use. 

The new plant will support GSK's current pipeline and portfolio of drugs, with the goal to achieve nature positive and net zero targets by 2030. The high-tech facility will use digital technology in its manufacturing processes called the Q Block.

"This investment demonstrates GSK's commitment to the local area and I look forward to continuing to build a skilled team of people from across a mix of disciplines. What we do together here makes a difference to patients every day and I am honored to work alongside such a committed team," Elizabeth Rowbotham, site director at GSK's Barnard Castle facility, told local reporters. 

Sanofi Launches AI Center in Toronto

Sanofi bolstered its network of international digital hubs by opening a new Artificial Intelligence Center of Excellence in Toronto. 

The new facility will focus on using technology to develop AI products and world-class data to help discover life-saving therapies for various diseases. To support this new center, Sanofi is hiring over 100 highly-skilled tech employees, with the goal to have a 200-strong workforce by 2025.

"The establishment of our global AI Centre of Excellence in Toronto represents a key investment in Sanofi's growing footprint in Canada, and in our global multidisciplinary approach to transforming the practice of medicine to improve people's lives around the world. Sanofi Canada's heritage in the province of Ontario is over 100 years in the making and continues to evolve," Stephanie Veyrun-Manetti, Canada country lead for Sanofi, commented in a statement. 

Sanofi's other AI facilities are in Boston, New York, Barcelona and Paris. 

BioNTech Builds Vaccine Facility In Africa

Kigali, Rwanda, is the site of BioNTech's first scalable mRNA vaccine production plant in Africa, and the first batch of manufacturing BioNTainers is expected to reach the country before 2022 ends. 

The new facility will initially be managed by staff from BioNTech's Germany sites, who are poised to train some 100 colleagues to run the production and all laboratory and quality assurance processes locally when the new center is up and running. The company has started hiring local personnel, including around 20 key positions. When the site is ready to go, all vaccines to be produced in the network will be dedicated to the people living in member states of the African Union. 

"I applaud the company's commitment to working with Africa on a continental basis to help secure our vaccine resilience for the future, and invest in new research to address the endemic diseases that disproportionately affect our people. Working with our partners, Rwanda intends to build on this investment to attract a vibrant biopharmaceutical research and manufacturing sector," Republic of Rwanda President H.E. Paul Kagame noted.

More similar facilities are in the works for South Africa and Senegal. 

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