Boehringer Ingelheim will hire 400, invest €500M in Vienna biologics operation

Germany's Boehringer Ingelheim has been swapping out operations and changing up top management as it scrambles to recover from patent losses that have flattened its revenues. After doing deals to bolster its top line, it will now spend some money on manufacturing in hopes of riding the biopharma boom to greater heights, adding about 400 jobs in the process.

Boehringer Ingelheim Chairman Andreas Barner

The company said Tuesday it will it build a commercial-scale biopharmaceutical production facility in Vienna, Austria, to produce active ingredients using cell cultures. It said it will fill in the details later but that it will spend roughly €500 million ($550 million) on the plant and take on up to 400 employees when it opens in 2021.

"This is a decision for Europe as a pharma location," Boehringer Chairman Andreas Barner, said in a statement. Vienna was picked, Barner explained, after sizing up other international locations and considering the "research environment at potential sites."

Boehringer's key biopharma production is done in Biberach, Germany, but the company needs extra capacity for its pipeline and decided to build in a new location to spread the risk. It also expects to do more production for other companies. Sanofi ($SNY) this year selected Boehringer to handle some of its monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) manufacturing for drugs the French drugmaker has been working on with U.S. partner Regeneron ($REGN).

Last week Boehringer and Sanofi announced negotiations around entirely different parts of their business. Boehringer intends to trade its consumer health business and pay the French drugmaker €4.7 billion for its Merial animal health unit. Each company expects the swap to boost its fortunes as they both struggle with soft spots in their businesses.

Germany's second largest drugmaker has been dealing with patent losses and pricing pressures that have led it to lay off workers and unload assets. It sold its U.S. generics operation, Roxane Labs to Jordan's Hikma Pharmaceuticals this year for $2.65 billion, saying it needed to focus on drug development and branded drug sales.

It has had some notable success in recent weeks with its drug development. The FDA approved the company's Praxbind, a reversal agent for patients taking the drugmaker's clot-fighter Pradaxa. It won an FDA breakthrough therapy designation for a drug candidate that demonstrated early-stage promise for T790M-positive cases of non-small cell lung cancer. The FDA last week also approved the biosimilar of Sanofi's massively popular Lantus insulin that Boehringer developed with partner Eli Lilly ($LLY).

To shepherd it through the next phase of its business, the company has picked a new, younger leader. It recently announced that Hubertus von Baumbach, a great-grandson of founder Albert Boehringer, would take over when Barner steps out of the the top role next year.

- here's the announcement