GSK spending $139M to boost Benlysta production in U.S. as demand for lupus drug grows

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GlaxoSmithKline is expanding production at its Rockville, Maryland, site as sales of lupus drug Benlysta also expand.

With demand for GlaxoSmithKline’s lupus-fighter Benlysta growing in the U.S. and approval of a new formulation expected later this year, the U.K., drugmaker says it is time to bring on more capacity at a U.S. manufacturing facility.

GSK today said it will invest $139 million at its biopharma site in Rockville, Maryland, allowing it to expand bulk drug capacity by about 50% for the intravenous drug, as well as a new subcutaneous formulation for which GSK hopes to get approval later this year. Work has started on the project and the added production is expected to be online in 2019. 

The announcement came on the first day of Lupus Awareness Month.

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Approved in 2014, Benlysta continues to be a growing product for GSK, increasing at least 18% per year in the U.S. on a constant exchange rate basis, the company said. Last year, GSK reported $377 million (£277 million) in sales for the drug in the U.S., and revenues for the med grew even more this quarter, up 22% to $117.7 million (£91 million) worldwide.

This is the second big expansion for the Rockville site, located outside of Washington, D.C., where about 400 people work. In December, GSK opened a $50 million vaccine R&D center at the facility where scientists will research potential deadly outbreaks.

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It is also the second major manufacturing expansion announced by the drugmaker in the last couple of months. In March, it said it would build a $175 million biopharma facility at its site in Marburg, Germany, so it can expand production of the meningococcal B shot Bexsero. GSK expects to start validation runs at that facility in the third quarter of 2020.