AstraZeneca plant expansion would add 3 dozen jobs

AstraZeneca ($AZN) is looking to add an aseptic drug manufacturing facility at its Macclesfield, U.K., site, the same complex where manufacturing has drawn attention from U.S. authorities for reasons no one will discuss.

The Macclesfield Express reports that local officials are all for an expansion at the site, anxious for the 36 additional jobs the project promises. "I'm absolutely delighted that AstraZeneca is keeping its manufacturing business in Macclesfield. Long may AstraZeneca continue in this town. They provide much-needed jobs," Cheshire East Council member Carolyn Andrew said at a meeting approving preliminary plans.

AstraZeneca spokeswoman Ayesha Bharmal said the company was just trying to determine from the council "whether this is an acceptable location for possible future expansion." She said Macclesfield is the company's second-largest manufacturing site, and "this is just one of a number of options we are looking at as part of our general planning."

However, documents the company filed with the council said that if approved, AstraZeneca foresees starting construction on the manufacturing and warehouse facility in the fourth quarter of this year and expects it to take 24 months to complete. It says the new facility would replace "existing assets that are reaching the end of their useful life." The plan calls for 72 workers, including 36 new positions. All manufacturing would take place on the ground floor, which would encompass about 206 square meters. No cost figure was attached to the plan and Bharmal didn't offer any.

In April, the company acknowledged in an SEC filing that it had received a subpoena from the U.S. Attorney's Office in Boston, MA, "seeking documents and records related to manufacturing, quality or good manufacturing practices at its Macclesfield facility in the U.K." The U.S. Attorney's Office has refused to comment, and the company said only that it is cooperating with authorities.  

According to AstraZeneca's website, nearly 2,000 people are employed at the Macclesfield site, although the Macclesfield Express says that number is currently closer to 2,500. About a third of the employees there work in manufacturing, packing and distribution. The company points out that production there includes Zoladex, a treatment for hormone-sensitive cancers of the prostate and breast. It said the production line is "one of its kind globally, requiring a complex aseptic technique to ensure the sterility of the drug."

The company announced in March that it would be cutting about 1,600 jobs globally as part of a corporate reshuffling, but the Macclesfield site was slated to pick up a small number of positions in that restructuring.

- here's the Macclesfield Express story
- here's an AstraZeneca planning document (PDF)