The investment – valued at €100m ($111m) over the next four years – will bolster production at the Huningue, France Center of biotechnology facility, described by the Swiss biopharma firm as “the crown jewel of Novartis's monoclonal antibody bioproduction sites for the global market.”
The decision to expand was driven by increasing demand for Novartis’ global biopharmaceuticals, the firm said when it announced plans to expand during a Conseil stratégique des industries de santé - a strategy meeting between the French Government and healthcare industries – back in April.
But yesterday the plan was cemented with Novartis awarding a contract to construction firm Jacobs Engineering Group for engineering, procurement and construction management services at the site.
Under predicted timelines, new production equipment will be installed by January 2017 and commercial activities will begin by the end of 2018.
A spokesperson from the Huningue plant was not immediately available for comment, but Philippe Barrois, general manager of Novartis Pharma in France said in April:
"The scope of this project covers extension of the main production building, creation of a second purification line and addition of cell culture bioreactors. This operation aims to increase the site's production capacity by 70% and to enable parallel production of two medicinal products simultaneously.”
The investment will also bolster jobs at the plant, with Barrois adding around 100 jobs will be added to Huningue’s 430 strong skilled workforce by 2020.
Situated across the French border from Novartis’s headquarters in Basel, Switzerland, Huningue manufactures several active ingredients, including asthma and psoriasis treatments, anti-rejection drug for kidney transplantation and an anti-inflammatory agent within Novartis’ portfolio.
It is also Novartis’ main production site for biotechnology-derived drugs, the firm says, claiming it to be “one of the largest plants for the production of antibodies from mammalian cell culture in the world.”
In 2012, the site made enough antibodies for three million medication doses.
The expansion follows a number of investments by Novartis subsidiary Sandoz, which recently said by 2020 it will have invested a total of $1bn in its Austrian biomanufacturing capabilities over a ten-year period, supporting both a blossoming biosimilar portfolio and providing production capacity for Novartis’ innovative biologics.