WuXi builds revenues, capacity as competition boils among Asian CDMOs

WuXi Biologics expects to have a plant in Europe complete in 2021 as a capacity race plays out among Asia’s rapidly growing biologics CDMOs. The Chinese company also insists its vaccine partnership will complete a multibillion-dollar contract by year-end with a dedicated plant to follow, but has yet to identify with whom the deal was struck.

The disclosures came as the company Monday released first-half earnings in which it reported revenues of ¥1.6 billion ($228 million) and a profit of about $65 million. 

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“The booming biologics industry is full of opportunities and we are well prepared for it,” WuXi Biologics Chairman Ge Li said in a statement. “We will continue to accelerate and transform biologics industry and provide a robust global supply chain with premium quality.”

The company in April 2018 announced it would invest €325 million ($392 million) to build a biologics facility in Dundalk, Ireland, and create a campus of 26 hectares (2.8 million square feet). The project, its first outside China, is targeted at customers in the U.S. as well as the EU. The CDMO said that by 2022, its total capacity will reach 280,000 liters. 

That would still put it behind South Korea's Samsung BioLogics as the two expand rapidly in an unannounced race to dominate biologics contract production. Samsung, which opened a third plant last fall, has said its capacity is 362,000 liters. Pulling up third is South Korea’s Celltrion, which has about 150,000 liters of capacity but has pledged to build that significantly in coming years. The Asian manufactures are betting their lower costs of doing business and expanding local markets will help them outflank other biologics CDMOs.

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WuXi Monday also reported it is making progress toward completing a vaccine deal that would lead to greater revenues and capacity. Last year, it formed a joint with veterinary vaccine maker Shanghai Hile Bio-Technology to focus on cancer vaccines. Then in May it announced it had a letter of intent with an undisclosed client for a 20-year contract it estimated could generate $3 billion in revenue. The Chinese CDMO said if the deal closes, WuXi Vaccines would build a dedicated manufacturing facility that will be able to handle substance and drug product manufacturing.  

Evan as Asian companies are looking to build global market share, Western contractors also are moving into Asian markets, particularly China where easing regulations have made it possible for non-Chinese companies to operate without partners. Lonza late last year staked its claim, saying it would open a biologics plant in the Guangzhou Development District with 160 employees. The Swiss drug company says that facility should be open by 2020. Germany's Boehringer Ingelheim has been operating on the mainland for several years.