AstraZeneca opens plant in Russia

AstraZeneca ($AZN) has laid out a host of new manufacturing projects in recent months, including new biologics plants in Europe and the U.S. But while those projects are in the works, it has a new tablet plant in Russia that has just gone online.

AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot

CEO Pascal Soriot was in Russia on Tuesday to announce the opening of the facility. What started out as a $150 million project in 2011 is now a $224 million facility in Kaluga about 90 miles outside of Moscow. Commercial production will start early next year.

When it is fully up and running in 2017, the plant is projected to produce and package around 40 million packs and 850 million tablets of 30 different meds a year, the company said. The plant will produce more than 60% of the drugs the U.K. company expects to be selling in Russia, and as such, should allow the company to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin's dictate that international pharma companies invest in production there if they want a piece of the massive market.

More recently, AZ has been boosting its biologics manufacturing. Last month Pam Cheng, executive VP of operations and IT for AstraZeneca, announced that the company had picked up a 300,000-square-foot plant in Boulder, CO, that Amgen ($AMGN) put up for sale last year as part of its cost-cutting campaign. AstraZeneca expects the plant, which will employ 400, to be operational in 2017 and says it will double AstraZeneca's biologics capacity in the U.S.

Last year, the company laid out plans to invest more than $200 million to expand a biologics facility in Frederick, MD, then followed that in May with the announcement that it would build a $285 million biologics facility in Sweden where it will add 250 jobs. It has said it needs all of the extra biologics capacity because half of the 120 drugs in its pipeline are large-molecule candidates, including 30 in the clinic.

AZ also has plans for expanding its manufacturing to other emerging markets beyond Russia. In June it announced it had taken a 49% stake in a joint venture in Algeria that would build a $125 million tablet plant to manufacture heart, oncology, gastroenterology and diabetes drugs.

here's the release