Alexion to build $506M plant in Ireland, add 200 workers

U.S. drugmaker Alexion ($ALXN) will build its first biologics plant outside the U.S. in Ireland, spending more than $500 million and adding 200 jobs when it is operational in 2019. The facility will be at a site in Dublin where the maker of rare disease drug Soliris is already erecting a logistics operation.

The drugmaker is seeking approval for the project from local authorities and, if granted, expects the €450 million ($506 million) 20,000-square-meter (215,278-square-foot) plant to take four years to complete.

Julie O'Neill

"Alexion is pleased to progress the development of our College Park facility with a significant expansion that will now include our first biologics manufacturing facility outside the United States," Julie O'Neill, EVP of Global Operations for Alexion, said in a statement. Martin Shanahan, CEO of the Ireland Development Agency, called Alexion's new plant "one of the largest investments in healthcare in the history of the Irish state."

The manufacturing facility will actually be Alexion's third project in the tax-friendly country. It is investing €75 million ($84 million) in its Global Supply Chain HQ in Dublin, where it will have laboratories, packaging and warehousing operations. That project is expected to be operational by year-end. It also is spending €55 million ($62 million) to convert two buildings it bought in 2013 from Irish drugmaker Alkermes ($ALKS) into a vial fill-finish operation in Athlone about 125 km west of Dublin. It has about 170 workers in Ireland now, but says by the end of 2016, its workforce there will be about 300.

The company is, of course, partly motivated by the tax benefits, which shaved about 5% off of Alexion's tax rate after it established its Irish credentials two years ago. Tax savings have been the draw for any number of drugmakers, like Tarrytown, NY-based Regeneron ($REGN), which is spending $300 million to convert a former Dell computer plant in Limerick into a drug manufacturing facility slated to have about 300 workers.

Alexion is also adding to its manufacturing network in the U.S. with its $8.4 billion deal last week to buy Lexington, MA-based Synageva BioPharma to get its hands on its late-stage drug Kanuma (sebelipase alfa), which is designed to treat lethal cases of early onset lysosomal acid lipase deficiency, an inherited disease that often kills infants in a matter of months. With Synageva, it also got three facilities and Synageva's proprietary manufacturing technology, known as the expression platform, which it describes as an integrated system of proprietary vectors that can be used to produce proteins with humanlike glycosylation patterns.

- here's the Ireland announcement