Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Lonza plots $935M in capacity upgrades in Europe and U.S., plans to add 550 jobs over the next 3 years

Even as COVID-19 manufacturing dominates headlines, Swiss CDMO juggernaut Lonza is taking steps to keep the rest of its production arsenal competitive. The company’s latest move? A nearly $1 billion investment to boost capacity at sites in Europe and the U.S. 

Lonza has designs on an 850 million Swiss franc ($935 million) expansion at sites in Switzerland and New Hampshire. The CDMO plans to stand up two new mammalian manufacturing facilities at the locations and add more than 550 jobs over the next three years.

The upgrade comes hot on the heels of a separate drug substance boost in Switzerland, courtesy of the manufacturer’s pandemic vaccine tie-up with mRNA biotech Moderna. 

At the company’s site in Visp, Switzerland, Lonza plans to spend 650 million Swiss francs (about $715 million) on a large-scale mammalian drug substance factory. The 27,500-square-meter (296,000-square-foot) plant will be kitted out with six 20,000-liter bioreactors to help Lonza keep pace with the swift rise in demand for large-scale biologics production, the company said in a release.

RELATED: Lonza unveils plan for $218M small-molecule manufacturing facility in Switzerland

The company will also equip the plant to run perfusion cell culture processes—an approach that leverages continuous media exchange to achieve high cell densities over an extended period.

Lonza expects to get the facility up and running in 2024 and has already kicked off recruitment to bring on more than 300 new hires.

Stateside, the manufacturer will invest 200 million Swiss francs ($220 million) in a new, 3,000-square-meter (32,292-square-foot) facility in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Armed with eight, 2,000-liter single-use bioreactors, the facility will be equipped to handle projects from phase 3 through commercial-stage manufacturing for small- to mid-volume products, Lonza said. The company is blueprinting “state of the art” perfusion, purification and automation-based technology there.

The small-scale plant will support Lonza’s work on “innovative” products targeting areas of unmet need, such as rare diseases, a Lonza spokeswoman said via email. 

Lonza expects the Portsmouth plant to come online in 2023. The company will hire 250 people to work there.

“In recent months, the COVID-19 pandemic has placed the spotlight on supply chains and the critical role CDMOs play in ensuring an adequate supply of medicines,” Pierre-Alain Ruffieux, Lonza’s chief executive, said in a release.

While this latest expansion is separate from the company’s pandemic work, Lonza was among the first to chip in on the fight against COVID-19 when it agreed to help produce Moderna’s mRNA-based shot last May. 

RELATED: Lonza strikes $4.7B deal to offload specialty ingredients business to Bain Capital, Cinven

On that front, the company is due to double drug substance production for Moderna’s vaccine at its Visp plant. Moderna last week said it would lay out an investment from its own cash balance to boost manufacturing at its own sites in the U.S., plus those of manufacturing partners Lonza and Rovi in Switzerland and Spain, respectively.

Forecasting a production ramp-up late this year or early next, Moderna now plans to supply 800 million to 1 billion doses of its shot in 2021 and up to 3 billion doses in 2022. 

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