Fujifilm socks $530M into U.K. vaccine, gene therapy and microbial production, creating 350 jobs

Fujifilm is expanding to create what it calls "the largest multi-modal biopharmaceutical manufacturing site in the United Kingdom." (Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies)

Not content to make a splash in just one manufacturing field, Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies is lining up hundreds of millions of dollars to rev up continuous manufacturing, viral vector and mRNA production all at once—and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Fujifilm is laying out 400 million pounds ($533 million) to expand operations at its U.K. facility in Billingham in Teesside, the company said late Wednesday. With upgrades coming to its capabilities in biologics, viral gene therapy, mRNA production and more, the investment is set to more than double the site’s current development and manufacturing footprint.

When the project is done, Fujifilm says the site will serve as “the largest multi-modal biopharmaceutical manufacturing site in the United Kingdom.”

The first of the CDMO’s new Billingham facilities are due to come online by late 2023. Overall, the expansion is set to increase Fujifilm’s headcount there by up to 350.

Aside from a new viral gene therapy manufacturing plant and mammalian cell culture facility, the expansion will beef up vaccine production and microbial fermentation capacity, Fujifilm said. The expansion falls under the umbrella of a 90 billion yen (around $850 million) capital investment package that Fujifilm unveiled in June.

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The new cell culture facility will triple existing capacity at the site, thanks to the addition of four 2,000-liter and two 500-liter single-use bioreactors, the company said. Fujifilm will make both monoclonal antibodies and new antibody treatments at the plant. It’s also throwing its MaruX continuous manufacturing platform into the mix.

On the viral vector and gene therapy front, the company is adding dedicated process development capabilities plus a commercial-scale viral gene therapy manufacturing plant. The expansion is expected to multiply Fujifilm’s U.K. gene therapy production capabilities by tenfold. In turn, Fujifilm hopes to cement its position near the head of the viral vector table.

Fujifilm didn’t go in to much detail on its vaccine plans, except to say it’s bringing on mRNA production capabilities at Billingham, too.

Finally, Fujifilm is adding to its microbial production facilities. This part of the expansion will boost microbial fermentation capacity by almost two-thirds, thanks to the addition of more than 20,000 square feet of modular downstream clean room space. Included in that space will be two primary recovery and refolding suites, two purification suites and a column packing room.

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The expansion will add quality control labs, office space and storage, which is expected to come online in late 2023 or early 2024.

This isn’t Fujifilm’s first gene therapy boost in the U.K., either. Fujfilm previously said it would soup up its viral vector and gene therapy firepower in Darlington, where it’s adding process development labs and manufacturing capabilities for early-stage gene therapy production. Those process development labs have already kicked off operations, and manufacturing services will debut in the spring.