Biogen to build $1B plant, add 400 jobs in Switzerland

Biogen has looked at its pipeline of promising drug candidates for things like Alzheimer's disease and multiple sclerosis, measured that against its manufacturing network and decided it is going to need more capacity. The company announced on Tuesday that it will start with a $1 billion plant in Switzerland, where it expects to add 400 jobs.

The Cambridge, MA-based Biogen ($BIIB), which traces its history to Switzerland, says it intends to build the new facility in Luterbach, Switzerland, about 120 kilometers from its European headquarters in Zug. Executives expect to start work on the facility by year's end and have the new biologics facility fully operational by 2021. Biogen spokeswoman Kate Niazi-Sai explained to FiercePharma that is contingent upon getting local approval. She said Biogen is working with authorities and the community and anticipates nailing that down by the end of the summer.

"We have a pretty rapidly growing pipeline and a need for increased capacity for those, as well as for our current products," Niazi-Sai said. "Our only other plant in Europe is in Denmark and we have a large manufacturing presence in the U.S, in Cambridge and in Research Triangle Park, NC. The advantage of having an extensive manufacturing network is global diversity, so you have backup."

Biogen is working off a 5-year strategic plan for its manufacturing needs and expects to build more facilities and to expand capacity at its existing plants as demand grows, Niazi-Sai said. In its announcement with officials of Canton Solothurn, one of Switzerland's 26 states, Biogen pointed to its portfolio of products in multiple sclerosis and hemophilia, as well as drugs being developed for Alzheimer's disease and spinal muscular atrophy as among those that created the need for a bigger manufacturing network.

The company earlier this year raised expectations among investors with promising results it has seen in early-stage results for its Alzheimer's drug, a high-risk, high-reward play that analysts have said could reach $5 billion in peak sales if it ever gets approved. Last month, Biogen partner Isis Pharmaceuticals ($ISIS) did the same for the SMA drug it has in mid-stage trials.

Biogen will soon be reporting Q2 results but missed analysts' forecasts in the first quarter when its hot MS drug Tecfidera posted lower-than-expected first-quarter sales of $824.9 million.

- here's the release

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