On Thursday R-Pharm opened the first facility in Russia to use GE’s Flex Factory platform. The plant - in Yaroslavl - will manufacture biologics and biosimilars for local and international markets.
The opening came six years after R-Pharm bought the platform from Xcellerex – the developer of FlexFactory which GE acquired in 2012 – although system installation took less than a year according to Andrei Demurin, Director of GE Healthcare Life Sciences in Russia.
“The decision was made to accommodate the FlexFactory into an existing building. Consequently, there was the additional need and effort to dismantle and remove old equipment housed in the selected building.
He added that: “With all this preparative work complete, in early 2015 the installation of the FlexFactory began. Approximately 12 months later the commissioning process saw the first engineering start-up of the Flex Factory in March 2016.”
R-Pharm’s set up includes two 2,000L Xcellerex XDR bioreactors according to Demurin who said the firm will use them to make therapies for autoimmune diseases and cancer. He was unable to disclose how much R-Pharm had paid for the system.
At the opening ceremony, Sergey Tsyb, Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade of the Russian Federation, said: "Modern technologies have an important role to play for Russian biopharmaceutical companies developing new products within the national Pharma-2020 program.”
This was echoed by Demurin who told us the Pharma 2020 policy – which encourages international drug firms to make products in Russia – has had an impact on demand for biomanufacturing technologies.
“We definitely see market activation, foreign companies are making positive steps to achieve greater local presence in 2017-2018.
“We are seeing a drive to increase local production of strategic medicines including mAbs, blood factors, and vaccines, which is supporting the move to full cycle production.”
He added that: “The industry is moving forward from clinical research to biomolecule production, which is driving the need for expansion of manufacturing capacity and or re-equipment.”