Genentech project to add 100 jobs

Roche ($RHHBY) has already laid out a plan to supersize its production network to provide the capacity for a pipeline full of biologic drugs, but now its Genentech subsidiary is also getting into the act. The $125 million project will take Roche's investment in biologics production to over $1 billion and add 100 more jobs to the 500 Roche initially said the projects would create.

Genentech, based in South San Francisco, CA, said on Thursday that it would expand a fill/finish facility in Hillsboro, OR, a facility first opened in 2010 and that also includes a warehouse and distribution center.

"This investment in our sterile production operations will result in the addition of up to 100 new skilled manufacturing jobs in the greater Portland area over the next five years, potentially bringing the total number of Genentech jobs in Oregon to over 500," said Larry Sanders, a Genentech vice president, in a statement.

Genentech claims credit for being the first biotech to scale up protein manufacturing successfully from the small quantities used for research to commercial scale quantities while parent Roche claims to have more FDA approved capacity for biologics meds than any of its peers.

Roche CEO Severin Schwan

Roche, anticipating the need for much more capacity for its biologics pipeline, in 2013 laid out an extensive plan to invest 800 million Swiss francs ($881.8 million) to build a new facility in Switzerland and expand plants in the U.S. and Germany, adding nearly 500 jobs in the process. Roche has hot drugs like breast cancer drug Kadcyla that combines its antibody drug Herceptin (trastuzumab) with drug-conjugate technology from ImmunoGen ($IMGN), but at the time Roche CEO Severin Schwan said it had 39 biologics in its pipeline.

In January, Schwan pointed to Genentech's work in immuno-oncology as a reason to look beyond some disappointing financials. The Basel-based company reported a 16% drop in annual profit after restructuring some of its debt, and that despite a 5% bump in revenues to 47.5 billion Swiss francs. Schwan looked past that, talking about a host of late stage meds that fall into the biologics realm as reasons to expect better results in the future. He discussed candidates like Genentech's anti-PD-L1 drug in bladder cancer and multiple sclerosis programs for ocrelizumab (Opera I/II and Oratorio).

- here's the release

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