GlaxoSmithKline unveils $139M U.S. plant for Benlysta production

GlaxoSmithKline invested about $139 million to retrofit a building at its site in Rockville, Maryland to meet growing demand for its lupus drug Benlysta. (GlaxoSmithKline)

GlaxoSmithKline manufacturing is definitely on a role. A week after christening a new manufacturing plant in Pennsylvania, GSK has officially opened one in Maryland. 

The $139 million plant at its Rockville, Maryland site was built to add capacity for GSK’s lupus-fighter Benlysta, a drug that has been prescribed to 59,000 patients in the U.S. since its introduction in 2011. 

GSK chose to retrofit an existing building at the Maryland site, where it already had expertise in producing the injected or infused drug. The investment was used to pay for the demolition of existing suites and the engineering, installation and validation of new equipment. 

RELATED: GSK invests $120M in biopharma plant as renewed oncology bets grow

Benlysta, the only biologic medicine specifically approved to treat systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), has been among GSK’s top performers in recent years. Sales in 2018 were up 29% to £473 ($482.3 million). The drugmaker is also testing it with Rituxan against both systemic lupus erythematosus and against the autoimmune disease Sjogren’s syndrome. 

The unveiling of the Maryland plant comes just about a week after GSK officially opened a new $120M in biopharma plant at the drugmaker’s manufacturing site in Upper Merion, Pennsylvania, just outside of Philadelphia. That facility will be used primarily to produce the drugs now coming through the company’s pipeline, particularly oncology drug candidates.  

Elsewhere, GSK in July opened continuous manufacturing facilities in Singapore. The first new drug to be manufactured with the enzymatic process will be Daprodustat, a new oral treatment for anemia associated with chronic kidney disease.