Bayer plays the long game with plans to double workforce at Berkeley biologics site

Bayer has proposed a 30-year site development deal with the City of Berkeley that would see the company add about 1 million square feet of new work space at its current campus. (Bayer)

Bayer has been slimming down in a global restructuring, and that included layoffs in late 2018 at a Berkeley, California site focused on biologics manufacturing. But even so, the German drugmaker is looking to significantly expand the place over the next 30 years.

Bayer has proposed a 30-year site development deal with the City of Berkeley that would see the company add about 1 million square feet of new work space and double its workforce there by hiring 1,000 more employees.

“We’re building on a strong foundation in biologics development and biomanufacturing at this site and plan to diversify our operations,” Drew Johnston, the vice president of site engineering for Bayer’s Berkeley site, told The Daily Californian.

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The key work here is “diversify.” Currently, the Berkeley site is mainly responsible for making Bayer’s antihemophilic factor treatments—Kogenate, Kovaltry and Jivi—which have been under growing competition from rival drugs such as Roche’s fast-growing antibody drug Hemlibra. Despite the addition of Jivi to its offerings in fall 2018, sales from Bayer’s hemophilia A franchise in 2019, at €882 million ($1 billion), were flat year over year on constant currencies.

That’s why the company recently shuttered its hemophilia manufacturing facility in Wuppertal, Germany amid a global restructuring unveiled in late 2018, hard on the heels of laying off 227 workers at its Berkeley complex.

In contrast, Bayer last year said it would invest $150 million to build a 40,000-square-foot cell culture facility at the Berkeley site to support its pipeline of cancer and heart disease programs. It is expected to open in late 2021.

RELATED: WuXi Biologics taking over Bayer plant, giving it a jump on its global expansion plans

Bayer’s deal with the city started in 1992, back when the German conglomerate was operating there through a wholly owned subsidiary, Miles Laboratories. That first 30-year development agreement provided Bayer consistent and streamlined site development permit processes in return for a broad array of benefits to the local community. These include Biotech Partners, a nonprofit program Bayer set up to help train students in biotechnology.

Now, as the original 30-year deal is slated to expire next year, Bayer is looking to renew it for another 30 years. The expansion plan includes building new manufacturing buildings that can process raw materials and drug intermediates and constructing new office space, amenities and warehouses, according to The Daily Californian.

The extension of the agreement requires public input and is therefore expected to conclude by late 2021, a Bayer spokesperson told Fierce Pharma.

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