Locations -- R.I. Plants To Supply Key Drug

Dec. 21, 2004
Immunex Corp. chooses West Greenwich for BioNext Project, which will produce Enbrel and other drugs for the growing biotech company.
Plant Seattle biotechnology manufacturer Immunex Corp. is building new production facilities and retrofitting an adjacent existing plant in West Greenwich, R.I. The retrofitted plant and the new facility (known as the BioNext Project) will support production of Enbrel, the company's flagship drug used to treat arthritis, as well as other drugs in development. The BioNext Project will total 500,000 square feet and will include a production plant, a utility plant, a warehouse and a laboratory. Immunex is investing a total of $1 billion in the sites and expects to employ 700 people at full production. The retrofitted plant is expected to be online by 2003; production at the new plant is expected to begin in 2005. Corporate Strategy Biotech behemoth Amgen Inc. ($4 billion revenues for 2001) is in the process of acquiring Immunex, which posted $272 million in revenues the first quarter of 2002, up 25% from the same period last year. The company's products are based on immune system research. Enbrel had sales growth of 31% (total revenues of $216.5 million) in this year's first quarter compared with 2001's first quarter. "Demand for Enbrel has grown substantially because it has been a breakthrough therapy in rheumatoid arthritis and psoriatic arthritis," said Peggy Phillips, Immunex COO and executive vice president, in April when the company's first-quarter earnings were announced. "We anticipate that demand will continue. To keep pace, we are investing in technology and facilities to substantially increase supply." Boehringer Ingelheim Pharma KG currently is manufacturing Enbrel in Germany. Immunex partner Wyeth is building a plant in Ireland to manufacture Enbrel. When the West Greenwich retrofitted plant begins production, it will mark the first U.S.-based manufacture of Enbrel. Production Strategy The BioNext Project is slated to include what are described as the largest bioreactors ever used in commercial cell culture production manufacturing. Unlike traditional drugs, which are made using chemicals, biotech products are made with proteins, which are grown in batches in bioreactors. For biotech manufacturers, the larger the bioreactors, the more available is a key ingredient for their products. Community West Greenwich is a community of 5,000, about 15 miles south of Providence and 55 miles southwest of Boston. Rhode Island has identified biotechnology as a growth industry. The Rhode Island Economic Development Corp. (RIEDC) granted the BioNext Project a "certificate of economic concern," which is designed to expedite permit issuance. RIEDC also granted the company $350,000 to train 61 quality control specialists and 81 manufacturing technicians. Locations profiles selected siting and facility strategies by manufacturing companies. Send submissions to Senior Editor John S. McClenahen at [email protected].

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