Novartis building an antibiotics plant in Slovenia

A Lek pharma facility in Prevalje, Slovenia, where Novartis' Sandoz generics unit is expanding antibiotic production.

Novartis added about 150 jobs last year to the biosimilars development and production operations of its Lek Slovenia subsidiary. Now it will increase production of antibiotics at another Lek facility, again boosting employment at the Sandoz unit.

Lek announced Friday that it will build a new facility on land it acquired last year that is near an existing production facility in Prevalje. The new facility will allow it to “significantly increase” antibiotics production in Prevalje, with production expected to begin in 2019 and phase in through 2023.

Lek didn’t say exactly how much Novartis is investing in the new facilities but said the Swiss drugmaker has invested about €30 million in the Prevalje site in the last 10 years. The project is slated to add to employment at the site, which at year-end had 246 employees.

"Our products are used for treating patients in 60 markets,” Zlatko Ajd, head of penicillin production in Prevalje, said in a statement. "In recent years, the demand has been continuously growing and in order to meet this demand, we have recently introduced a number of process improvements. We are pleased that Novartis has decided to invest, as the expansion of the current capacity will facilitate further development of the site and employment.''

Novartis bought Lek in 2002 for about $860 million when it was expanding its Sandoz generics business. Among other things, Lek develops and manufactures active ingredients for biosimilars at its Biopharmaceuticals Mengeš site. Novartis, which has set itself up to be a major player in the growth of the biologic copies, completed a €10 million ($10.8 million) addition last year to its facilities at the Mengeš site and added 100 new jobs. That boosted the headcount at the facility to more than 350.