U.K. starts work on $64M biologics manufacturing center

National Biologics Manufacturing Centre--Courtesy of CPI

Biologics are where much of the drug industry's future lies, and the U.K. wants as big a piece of that as it can snatch. To do that it is investing £38 million in its National Biologics Manufacturing Centre (NBMC), part of the country's "High Value Manufacturing Catapult" effort started several years ago.

Construction began this week on the $63.8 million facility in Darlington, which was picked because of its proximity to manufacturing centers and its transportation infrastructure. The facility, which will be operated by the U.K.'s Centre for Process Innovation, is slated to be completed next year.

The NBMC will be available to the biopharmaceutical industry to move ideas from research to finished product. When it was announced in 2011 the government said it needed a facility "for the development and demonstration of improved and novel manufacturing processes for biological medicines such as antibodies and vaccines."

Steve Bagshaw, CEO of Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies, was at the kickoff and said in a statement that the new center would help the U.K. "create the best possible environment for U.K. biotechnology to grow." Bagshaw should know. Fujifilm got into biologics manufacturing three years ago when it paid a reported $490 million to buy the Merck BioManufacturing Network and its biologics plants in North Carolina and Billingham, U.K. Last year it opened a cell-banking facility at the Billingham facility, which it will use for projects there as well as at the former Merck biologics plant in Research Triangle Park, NC. It has also expanded its mammalian cell manufacturing capacity in the U.K.

But the U.K. will face formidable competition, with companies and countries building biologics capabilities throughout the world. One of the faster growing biologics centers is in the former British colony of Singapore. Biologics specialist Amgen ($AMGN) picked that country last year for its first Asia facility, while Novartis ($NVS) has a $500 million biologics facility going up there. 

- read the announcement