UCB plans new Belgian biomanufacturing plant

pharmafile | March 6, 2009 | News story | Manufacturing and Production UCB 

Belgian biopharmaceutical company UCB has earmarked euros 65 million for the construction of its first biologics manufacturing plant in Braine-l'Alleud.

UCB said the plant would allow it to "further optimise the biomanufacturing processes for its biological compounds under development" and extend its knowledge and competencies in the field.

The company has been one of Europe's largest biopharmaceutical companies since its acquisition of Celltech in 2004, but UCB currently relies entirely on outsourcing for its biologics manufacturing.

A spokesman for the company said new biologics pilot plant will be used to provide clinical trial supplies – both the bulk drug substance and clinical doses. She added that the in-house capability should also give the firm greater flexibility and make development of new drugs quicker.

For example, it will allow UCB to conduct process development activities before handing projects over to a contract manufacturer.

The 4,400-square-metre facility will house four bioreactors with a total capacity of around 3,200 litres that should be able to make 40-60kg of bulk drug a year. It will also boast around 800 square metres of laboratory space.

The pilot plant is expected to become operational early 2012 and around 100 new job opportunities should be created in the medium-term.

The investment in biomanufacturing is part of UCB's ongoing restructuring programme – dubbed SHAPE – that will also see the firm shed 17% of its workforce and create 400 new positions as it completes its transformation into a biopharmaceutical company.

A total of 2,400 posts will be made redundant, with 550 of the cuts made at the company's two Belgian locations. It is designed to save euros 300 million over the next three years.

UCB has also just posted its financial results for 2008. Sales dipped 1% to euros 3.6 billion and earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) were also down 1% to euros 733 million.

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