Regeneron plots 400 hires to handle increased workload amid COVID-19 cocktail production push

Regeneron Limerick
Since its Ireland site opened in 2014, Regeneron has pumped more than $1 billion into the facility. (Regeneron)(Regeneron Limerick)

Regeneron and Swiss drugmaker Roche made waves earlier this month with a gargantuan manufacturing pact to triple production of a hopeful COVID-19 antibody cocktail. But those big plans put a crunch on Regeneron's ability to churn out its regular meds, and now it's expanding at an Irish site to keep up. 

Regeneron will add up to 400 jobs at its Limerick, Ireland, manufacturing facility to handle an increased workload as the New York drugmaker gears up elsewhere to produce its COVID-19 cocktail at global scale, according to a release.

The new hires, mostly specialists on the manufacturing side, will bring Regeneron's total workforce at the 689,000-square-foot site to more than 1,400.

Regeneron's investment at the Limerick site—a former Dell site acquired in 2013—has grown in recent years as the drugmaker expands with blockbusters Eylea and Dupixent, a partnered drug with Sanofi. 

Since the site opened in 2014, Regeneron has pumped more than $1 billion into the facility, including hiring 1,000 full-time employees, 300 contingent workers and close to 500 construction personnel currently working on-site, the drugmaker said. 

The major expansion in Ireland comes as Regeneron boosts capacity at its New York manufacturing plant to pump out hundreds of millions of doses of the antibody cocktail, dubbed REGN-COV2, starting in early 2021.

The drugmaker partnered with Roche earlier this month to supersize global production as the cocktail races through late-stage human trials and aims for regulatory approvals in the near future.

RELATED: Roche, Regeneron join forces to more than triple manufacturing of COVID-19 antibody cocktail

Under their seven-year licensing deal, the partners each agreed to reserve manufacturing capacity for the therapy, with Regeneron handling the U.S. rollout and Roche taking on distribution elsewhere.

Roche pledged to set aside up to 100,000 liters of bioreactor capacity to meet its end of the agreement with Regeneron roping off 40,000 liters, according to a securities filing. The deal allows for more space to be set aside in case of future need.

The partners expect to churn out 650,000 to 2 million treatment doses, or 4 million to 8 million preventive doses, of the cocktail each year, Regeneron said. Final dosages are still being worked out in clinical trials and could change those figures.

RELATED: Regeneron plunks down $100M more on Ireland plant, adding another 300 workers

While the partnership won't pick up until next year, Regeneron has already been producing doses at risk prior to approval. The drugmaker hopes it can have multiple shots on goal with the cocktail in treating severe COVID-19 patients and preventing infections.

The partners expect joint production to begin in the first half of 2021, with the technology transfer already underway.

While Regeneron has yet to release a proposed list price for REGN-COV2, the company expects to split profits with Roche based on the amount of therapy each partner produces, a spokeswoman previously said. The profit-sharing will kick in once Roche secures a European approval for the therapy, and Regeneron expects to rake in between 50% and 60% of the haul.

Roche will also be on the hook to help fund current and future clinical trials for REGN-COV2, including an ongoing phase 3 trial to treat severe COVID-19 patients and a phase 1 preventive study.