Strides Arcolab puts biologics plant in Malaysia

Asia has become a center for biologics manufacturing, in part, because governments in the region are offering up deals to attract players. It is a trend that experts believe will lead to innovations that will lower costs for manufacturing both novel biologics and biosimilars. India's Strides Arcolab has decided to tap that trend and will build a new plant in Malaysia. 

Strides' subsidiary, Agila Biotech, has signed on with developer Bio-XCell to build a $34.4 million manufacturing plant, according to the Business Standard. Bio-XCell has a 160-acre campus in Nusajaya, near the country's border with Singapore. The customized plant will use single-use technology and include a mammalian cell culture manufacturing suite, a microbial fermentation manufacturing suite, a fill and finish suite, as well as analytical, quality control and R&D facilities. 

Bio-XCell will invest about $22 million under a build and lease agreement and Agila Biotech will put in an estimated $13 million to $15 million to cover construction of the building and part of the equipment, the publication said. Work is to begin this year and is slated to wrap up in 2014.

"The purpose of setting up the facility at Bio-Xcell is to leverage the support and assistance the Malaysian government and Bio-Xcell park officials are providing in setting up the facility and to leverage the preferential access to ASEAN markets like Singapore and Thailand," Agila Biotech CEO Anand Iyer said. "We feel that this is essential to Agila's vision of becoming the leading biologics companies to emerge from India."

Manufacturing of biologics and biosimilars is one of the most promising areas of drug development, and companies are positioning themselves to get a piece of that action. Novartis is building a $500 million biologics plant in Singapore and Chinese CRO WuXi AppTec is opening a biologics manufacturing plant in Shanghai that will initially serve a joint venture it has with AstraZeneca ($AZN).

China has been offering companies there incentives to build biologics plants and Matthew Hudes, U.S. managing principal in biotechnology for Deloitte Consulting, said in a telephone interview that U.S. drugmakers need to keep an eye on China's multi-pronged efforts. He predicts China, which is all about manufacturing at lower cost, may come up with the first significant manufacturing innovations in biologics in a couple of decades. 

"This is potentially a disruptive innovation in the industry and it presents an opportunity for process innovation," Hudes said. "We have always thought of the biotech industry as one which had tons of innovation in the area of medicine and manufacturing and process sciences but it now goes beyond that to innovation in the hardcore manufacturing processes, because we are going to need to be more efficient if there are going to be more of these cost pressures in play."

- read the Business Standard story