Boehringer Ingelheim to build €500M biopharma plant in Austria

Biologics manufacturing has been expanding as drugmakers develop more and more cell-based drugs with special capabilities. Boehringer Ingelheim is jumping on the buildup bandwagon with plans to spend half a billion euros on a new plant in Austria.

The German drugmaker said on Tuesday that it will build a new large-scale biopharmaceutical production facility in Vienna to produce active ingredients using cell cultures. It said the exact details will be worked out later but that it will spend roughly €500 million ($550 million) and add about 400 jobs. It said it expects the plant to be open in 2021.

Biberach, Germany, where it has two large-scale cell-culture-based manufacturing facilities, will remain its main biopharma production site. The drugmaker will back that up, however, by transferring cell-culture operations to Vienna over the next few years. Until now, the Vienna site has been all about API production using microorganisms, the drugmaker said.

"Our own promising biopharmaceutical development projects and the heavy market demand for contract manufacturing were the basis for our decision to invest long-term in our biopharmaceuticals activities to this extent," Wolfgang Baiker, who heads the company's biopharmaceuticals and operations, said in a statement.

Boehringer Ingelheim has 25 biopharma drugs to its credit over its 35 years of producing the large-molecule drugs. It produces drugs for other companies as well as itself. Earlier this year, French drugmaker Sanofi ($SNY) began transferring some monoclonal antibody manufacturing to Boehringer's Biberach site to ensure enough capacity to produce some of the drugs it has been working on with partner Regeneron ($REGN).

Biologics are a growing piece of the pipelines at many drugmakers. That has led to a significant expansion of biologics manufacturing in the past several years. In quick succession last year, Bristol-Myers Squibb ($BMY), Amgen ($AMGN) and AstraZeneca ($AZN) all announced projects to expand biologics capacity.

Korea's Samsung is investing big in biologics production, betting its experience in large-scale, low-cost production of flat screens and cellphones will give it an edge in ascending to the top biologics contractor title. Samsung BioLogics, which has an A-list of Western drugmakers as clients, said last month it would invest 850 billion Korean won ($740 million) to build its third biologics manufacturing plant in South Korea.

- here's the announcement