Jazz grows cannabinoid manufacturing ambitions with new $100M plant

Jazz Pharmaceuticals, after getting its hands on the industry’s first FDA-approved cannabis-based medicine last February, is angling to keep its crown with a major manufacturing push overseas.

Jazz and its star cannabinoid subsidiary GW have kicked off construction of a new U.K. manufacturing plant at Kent Science Park in Sittingbourne, the companies said Friday.

Jazz will invest more than $100 million into the 60,000-square-foot facility, where it plans to hire 100-plus staffers once the site is operational. The plant is expected to open in 2024, and it will specifically support manufacture of Jazz and GW’s two approved cannabis-based medicines.

Those are the seizure med Epidiolex, which boasts a green light in the U.S., and late-stage multiple sclerosis candidate nabiximols, which is known as Sativex outside the States. The Kent Science Park site will also help bolster future capacity for new meds in the company’s pipeline, Jazz said.

Jazz is already producing extract, active pharmaceutical ingredients and formulated drug products in Kent Science Park, where it operates 12 buildings with more than 400 employees. The site forms “the heart of our global cannabinoid manufacturing operations,” Jazz said in a release.

GW, for its part, has invested heavily in the Kent Science Park site over the past 20 years. Jazz bought GW last year for $7.2 billion in one biopharma's largest M&A deals in 2021.

Green in more ways that one, the new Kent Science Park plant has been designed with “careful consideration to the environment,” which will continue through construction and use, Jazz said. Further, Jazz will install animal refuge boxes to promote wildlife in the nearby area. It plans to minimize its reliance on single-use plastics at the new facility, which will also be equipped with more than 1,100 solar panels to provide a portion of the building’s energy.

“This facility, which is expected to open in 2024, will not only significantly increase our ability to support the growing demand for our medicines, but help us maintain our position as a world leader in cannabinoid science,” Chris Tovey, executive vice president, chief operating officer and managing director for Europe and International at Jazz, said in a statement.

It’s been a little over a year since Jazz laid out $7.2 billion for GW, teeing up the company’s pivot into the epilepsy market beyond its bread-and-butter in oncology and sleep disorders.

Back in February 2021, Wells Fargo analysts noted that the GW deal wasn’t cheap. That said, given Epidiolex’s strong performance, the buyout could help defend Jazz’s top line against generic competitors to its blockbuster narcolepsy drug Xyrem, the analysts said at the time.

Jazz earlier this month reported Epidiolex sales of $463.6 million for 2021.