Evotec starts work on $180M French companion to its biologics 'facility of the future' in Washington

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Evotec's U.S. subsidiary Just has won cash from the U.S. Department of Defense and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to work on COVID-fighting monoclonal antibodies. ("Flag of France, Undated" (CC BY 2.0) by nathanh100)

A little over a year after Evotec's U.S. subsidiary started work on its biologics "facility of the future" in Washington, the German biotech-CRO hybrid has unveiled plans to stand up a sister facility in France. 

Evotec has kicked off construction on a new biologics factory in Toulouse dubbed J.POD 2 EU, the company said Tuesday. The French government, investment bank Bpifrance, the city of Toulouse and more will chip in up to €50 million ($60.18 million) for the project, for a total investment of around €150 million ($180.53 million), Evotec said. 

The site will be the company's second to leverage its speedy and continuous bioprocessing approach and Evotec's first commercial biomanufacturing plant in Europe.

Evotec hopes the new space in France will beef up "nearshore" biomanufacturing capacity, CEO Werner Lanthaler said in a release. That should prove especially useful in the ongoing fight against COVID-19, as well future pandemics, the company added. Plus, Evotec's flexible J.POD plants can be fitted with extra cleanroom PODS for quick and easy scale-up.

Over the past year, the company's biologics subsidiary Just has tied up with Ology Bioservices—recently acquired by fledgling manufacturer National Resilience—and won cash from the U.S. Department of Defense and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to seek out and produce new monoclonal antibody drugs to help combat COVID-19.

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Evotec will deploy its biologics subsidiary's continuous manufacturing approach at the French plant. "We use continuous production technologies to 'intensify' the bioreactor culture, as well as the downstream continuous purification processing steps," a Just spokeswoman explained over email.

The company's systems allow it to "achieve higher cell mass, productivity, and mass output in a relatively simple and inexpensive plant design," the spokeswoman added. 

Evotec expects the site to be fully operational in 2023. The new plant will be roughly the same size as J.POD 1 US, which stands at around 130,000 square feet, the spokeswoman said. The company will hire around 150 new workers to start, with plans to eventually staff more than 200 at the plant. 

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Meanwhile, Just is also building a new site in Redmond, Washington, which should be up and running in the second half of the year. At 130,000 square feet, the facility will be able to handle bioprocessing projects up to 1,000 liters in scale and crank out "metric tons" of drug substance, Just has said. 

Editor's note: This story was updated with additional comments from Just and Evotec.