Boehringer Ingelheim has China biologics plant up and running

Germany’s Boehringer Ingelheim several years ago decided it wanted to expand its biologics contract manufacturing business and bet that China was the place to target with its huge population and growing appetite for the latest meds. The company has now opened a €70 million facility in Shanghai to capitalize on that bet.

This first phase of that facility, which will manufacture drugs using cell-based technology, has a single-use bioreactor that can handle clinical supplies or commercial production up to 2000 liters. The $77 million facility is designed so that it can add additional 2000-L single-use bioreactors and fill/finish capabilities if demand calls for that, the company said Tuesday.  It is slated to employ about 65.

“With this investment, we expect to have a significant impact on the development of China’s biopharmaceutical industry to ultimately supply innovative medicines to patients following high quality standards,” Boehringer Ingelheim Chairman Hubertus von Baumbach said in a statement.

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The company already has biopharmaceutical production sites in Biberach, Germany, Vienna, Austria, Fremont, California but in 2013 announced an alliance with Zhangjiang Biotech & Pharmaceutical Base Development Company (ZJ Base) in Pudong, Shanghai, to build the facility under BI's tutelage. The following year Boehringer Ingelheim China Biopharmaceuticals began producing clinical material supply at 100-L and 500-L scales. Last year it said it had secured its first commercial scale client. Under a pilot program in China, it will manufacture immuno-oncology drugs for Beijing-based BeiGene.

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The new facility is coming online even as China is making changes to speed drug approvals after years of being criticized for its its cumbersome and slow drug-review process.