BMS highlights shift to biologics with plans for $900m plant in Ireland

By Dan Stanton

- Last updated on GMT

Small molecule plant closing but large molecule plant to be constructed at BMS' Dublin facility
Small molecule plant closing but large molecule plant to be constructed at BMS' Dublin facility

Related tags Bristol-myers squibb

Bristol-Myers Squibb has announced plans to build a biologics facility in Ireland, eight months after winding down a small molecule API plant at the same site.

Patent expirations and changes in market demand led BMS to announce it was shuttering a small molecule API plant​ in Ireland earlier this year yet the company will not be exiting the site in Cruiserath, County Dublin, but said in an announcement this morning it intends to build a 30,000m2​ large-scale biologics facility.

“Our investment in this new facility reflects the strength of our business and the increasingly important role that biologic medicines will play in Bristol-Myers Squibb’s future,”​ CEO Lamberto Andreotti, said, echoing comments made earlier this week at the Credit Suisse Healthcare Conference by CFO Charlie Bancroft​, that up to 75% of the firm’s future portfolio would be biologics.

The construction is expected to take four years and is anticipated to cost $900m (€720m), comparable to BMS’ biologics manufacturing facility in Devens, Massachusetts - built in 2009​ - which manufactures a number of products including rheumatoid arthritis drug Orencia (abatacept).

Jeff Smith. a BMS spokesman, told this publication "the proposed plant will be built on the grounds of the company’s existing bulk pharmaceutical manufacturing  plant in Cruiserath.  We will investigate options for leveraging and integrating some of the existing facilities on the site and options are still to be assessed."​ He added it is expected to provide bulk biologics capacity for elotuzumab, nivolumab, Yervoy, Orencia and Nulojix.

The facility will house six 15,000L stainless steel bioreactors and a purification area, as well as creating up to 400 manufacturing jobs.

Ireland’s pharma evolution

Having been a traditional hub of small molecule API and finished product manufacturing, Ireland has felt the full force of industry’s shift towards large molecules in the past few years.

BMS’s announced closure of the API plant in March came months after Pfizer put its plant in Little Island, Cork​ up for sale due to the patent expiration of anti-cholesterol drug Lipitor, and Merck & Co. exited both an API plant in County Wicklow​ and a finished formulation plant in Swords, Dublin​.

Despite this, investment such as the news today and announcements like Pfizer’s $130m expansion at its Grange Castle, Dublin​ biologics plant, is ensuring Ireland remains a biopharmaceutical centre.

“[The BMS facility] is a major vote of confidence in Ireland’s ability to win large-scale capital investment projects,”​ Martin Shanahan, Chief Executive of the Ireland industrial development agency (IDA), said adding the production of biologic medicines is “an area Ireland now excels in.”

Similarly, Reg Shaw, CEO of the country’s National Institute for Bioprocessing Research and Training (NIBRT) – a Government funded institute described as a “flight simulator for biopharma manufacturing”​ - added the $900m investment is “a gamechanger. It endorses Ireland as the best location in the world for bioprocessing investment.”

“Bristol Myers Squibb's investment decision follows similar announcements in the past year by companies such as Regeneron, Eli Lilly and Alexion and shows that Ireland is well on its way to set the standard as a biologics hub, attracting world class companies and talent to establish here.”

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