Pfizer building modular biologics plant in China

A mock-up of a large building structure

Pfizer will build a biologics plant in China, where it will make biosimilars for the Chinese market but also for sale throughout the world. The New York drugmaker has turned to GE for construction of the facility, which has developed a modular construction process that will cut the cost and allow the plant to be operational in about 18 months, instead of three years.

The $350 million facility, which it is building at the Hangzhou Economic Development Area in China, will be Pfizer’s third biologics production facility and its first in Asia. In addition to manufacturing, the facility will house Pfizer China’s Biosimilars and Biologics Quality, Technical Service, Logistics and Engineering divisions, and serve as a site for process development and clinical supplies. It will have about 150 employees when it is complete in 2018, the company said today in an announcement

“We plan on building on Pfizer’s 30-year history in China by applying our Global expertise in manufacturing excellence and world-class capabilities to bring high-quality biosimilars to market,” Tony Maddaluna, president of Pfizer Global Supply said in a statement. “The local production of high-quality, affordable biosimilar medicines will have the potential to significantly improve the lives of patients not only in China but across the world.”

The new center will be built using GE’s single-use technology in a KUBio modular facility, which Pfizer said will not only cut the time needed to build it compared to traditional construction from about three years to 18 months but will reduce the cost of construction by 25% to 50%.  It said the plant will have fewer carbon dioxide emissions, and use about 75% less water and energy than a traditional facility.

GE recently built one of the modular facilities in China for JHL Biotech. The clean rooms, piping and HVAC, even the toilets, were installed at a GE production plant in Germany. They were shipped to the Wuhan site in 62 containers and assembled in 11 days. GE has likened assembly to working with LEGO blocks. GE had already completed installation of its biomanufacturing platform at JHL Biotech's Research Center and manufacturing plant in Hsinchu, Taiwan.

Pfizer is pushing hard into biosimilars. With its $15 billion acquisition last year Hospira, it got a copycat of Remicade which is already being sold in Europe. It is preparing to sell the drug in the U.S. but first must deal with a legal challenge by originator, the Janssen Biotech unit of Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ).

Pfizer also has under development biosimilars of Roche ($RHHBY) and Biogen's ($BIIB) MabThera/Rituxan (rituximab), Roche's Avastin (bevacizumab)‎ and Herceptin (trastuzumab), and AbbVie's ($ABBV) blockbuster Humira (adalimumab)‎‎.

- here’s the announcement

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