Dispatches from BPI Europe 2016

GE Healthcare: Expanded Austrian plant incorporating ex-Thermo media business

By Dan Stanton

- Last updated on GMT

GE at BPI Europe 2016 in Vienna, Austria
GE at BPI Europe 2016 in Vienna, Austria

Related tags Cell culture European union Thermo fisher

GE Healthcare has expanded a facility in Austria to house the European wing of the Hyclone cell culture business it acquired from Thermo Fisher.

In 2014, Thermo Fisher acquired Life Technologies for $13.6bn (€12bn). As part of the deal it was required by the European Commission to divest​ its Hyclone cell culture media and sera unit.

GE Healthcare bought the business in a deal worth $1.1bn​ and two years on, following a $4.3m investment at its plant in Pasching, Austria, the integration is now complete, according to David Radspinner , general manager  of GE’s Bioprocess Cell Culture division.

The Hyclone products were made at Thermo Fisher’s Cramlington, UK facility but “in the negotiations Thermo wanted to keep that facility so we set up a two year agreement with them that we would set up the sterile liquid manufacturing somewhere else in Europe,”​ he told Biopharma-Reporter at the Bioprocess International European Summit in Vienna, Austria today.

“There was a transition service agreement which was part of the deal, and for two years they continued to manufacture on our behalf under our quality management system and our controls. They did a great job and during that time we established plans and designs, implemented validation and moved [the business] to our Pasching plant.”

The investment has seen increased staff, new equipment, a new Water for Injection (WFI) unit and a new heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system installed at the site, which Radspinner said would now serve as the firm’s main European manufacturing and distribution centre for large volumes of buffers, process liquids and cell culture media.

Growing Demand

Radspinner also said GE was seeing a huge surge in demand for cell culture products which contributed to the investment in Pasching.

“It was just five years ago that everybody said there was excess capacity – too much tankage – but now if you got to a CMO [contract manufacturer] they are all busy, and everyone’s saying there isn’t enough capacity.”

While increased GDP across the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) countries have driven demand for medicines and vaccines – and therefore the materials needed to produce them – he also suggested monoclonal antibodies, biosimilars and vaccines were playing their part.

“Biosimilars is a big factor, as is the move from adherent to suspension cell cultures in vaccines … plus cell therapy activity,”​ he told us. “All of this together has helped increase demand.”

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