Baxter beefing up cytotoxic manufacturing

With the ascent of targeted cancer drugs, a growing number of contract manufacturers are beefing up their cytotoxic manufacturing capabilities to cash in on demand.

Baxter International ($BAX) is the latest, expanding its plant in Halle, Germany, for the third time in half a dozen years. It says it will add 1,750 square meters, an expansion that it expects to lead to a 10% bump in employment at the facility.

"Cancer incidence is on the rise and cytotoxic therapies continue to be at the center of oncology treatment programs," said Dr. Burkhard Wichert, vice president of manufacturing for Baxter's BioPharma Solutions business.

The company says it will install a new commercial filling line with two freeze dryers, as well as a clinical filling line with an additional freeze dryer. Both the new commercial and clinical lines will be equipped with an automated loading/unloading, capping and inspection infrastructure. Baxter expects the work to be completed in 2015 and intends for the facility to meet international standards.

Lonza said last month that it would spend 14 million Swiss francs ($15.2 million) to double antibody drug conjugates (ADCs) capacity at its massive plant in Visp, Switzerland. It has been manufacturing ADCs there since 2006. Work is expected to be completed in the second quarter of 2014, and Lonza said the expansion will call for more workers at a plant that last year eliminated 500 positions to trim costs. French contract manufacturer Novasep said last year that it would invest about $3.7 million in a plant in LeMans, France, for ADC work. Meanwhile, Fujifilm and Indian manufacturer Piramal have partnered up to develop and manufacture ADCs.

As for Baxter, the Halle plant was last expanded in 2011 and before that in 2007. Among other features, the plant already is equipped to do commercial-scale production of cytotoxic emulsions, liposomes and suspensions. It has a nanoparticle suite equipped with a high-pressure homogenizer. The site also is equipped with barrier isolator technology.

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