AstraZeneca's manufacturing gets another boost with $125M Africa plant

AstraZeneca's headquarters in London--Courtesy of AstraZeneca

Just weeks after AstraZeneca said it would build a new facility in Sweden where it intends to fill and package biologics, the U.K. drugmaker said it was doing something more traditional in Algeria. Through a joint venture there, it will build a $125 million small-molecule plant.

The JV, AstraZeneca al-Djazair, was announced last week by partners Salhi and Hasnaoui but confirmed for FiercePharmaManufacturing by Sofia Ylén with AstraZeneca ($AZN) global media relations. She said that as required by Algerian law, the company will be majority owned by the Algerian companies and AstraZeneca will hold a 49% interest. AstraZeneca, however, will put up $125 million to build the facility and will oversee the tech transfer and also manage it once it is built. Pending a final decision, Ylén said it is expected to be built in Algiers.

The JV expects to break ground on the project this fall with expectations it will be operating in the first half of 2017. The plant will have an annual capacity of 300 million tablets and will manufacture heart, oncology, gastroenterology and diabetes drugs. It is expected to have 104 workers. AstraZeneca, which started operations in the country in 2007, has about 180 people working there now. Algeria is considered a promising emerging market in Africa because it offers a universal health program. Sanofi ($SNY) announced in 2013 that it was building a third plant there.

AstraZeneca, which is working to overcome the generic onslaught against its blockbuster Nexium, has been giving considerable attention to its manufacturing operations.The news about the Africa plans comes just three weeks after the drugmaker said it would build a $285 million filling and packaging facility at its site in Södertälje, Sweden, where its largest tablets and capsules manufacturing facility is located. It expects the biologics facility to be churning out product for clinical trials for AstraZeneca and its MedImmune biotech division by 2018 and to be ready for commercial production in 2019.

That came after an announcement last fall that it will invest more than $200 million into its operations in Frederick, MD, where it has its largest biologics manufacturing facility. It will add 40,000 square feet of manufacturing, laboratory and administrative space there and expects to need another 300 employees for the expansion which is to be online in 2017.

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