UCB, which recently pulled off a $2.5 billion deal for an autoimmune drug candidate, says it sees the need for more biopharma production. To fill it, it will build a €300 million ($333 million) facility and staff it with 150 new workers.
The Belgium company says work on the facility will begin soon at its site in Braine l’Alleud in Wallonia, Belgium. The plant is slated to be operational in 2024.
UCB said the biotechnology plant is needed for the future launch of monoclonal antibody drug therapies in clinical development.
“The shift of our pipeline towards large molecules requires us to ramp up investment in mammalian technical development, as well as our manufacturing capabilities," Kirsten Lund-Jurgensen, head of supply and technology at UCB, said in a statement.
The announcement comes just two months after UCB struck a deal to acquire Cambridge, Massachusetts-based biotech Ra Pharmaceuticals. With the takeover, UCB will get a phase 3 rival to Alexion’s Soliris that analysts have pegged to hit blockbuster sales.
The Ra drug candidate is focused on a once-daily, self-administered, subcutaneous C5 inhibitor called zilucoplan that is in phase 3 trials for myasthenia gravis (MG).
MG is a long-term, autoimmune neuromuscular condition that causes muscle weakness, particularly affecting the face; it can also extend to the arms, legs and neck in more severe cases, known as generalized MG. It can cause difficulties with swallowing, speaking and breathing and, in some cases, these can become severe—known as a myasthenic crisis—and require hospitalization.