AstraZeneca joins Bristol-Myers, Amgen in biologics buildup

If there can ever be a fashionable trend in pharma manufacturing, expanding biologics capacity is the hit of the season. Bristol-Myers Squibb ($BMY) announced a new project in Ireland earlier this month, followed by Amgen's ($AMGN) completion of a continuous processing facility in Singapore. Now AstraZeneca ($AZN) says it needs more biologics capacity and will spend in excess of $200 million to build out a facility in Maryland.

AstraZeneca will add 40,000 square feet of manufacturing, laboratory and administrative space to the hundreds of thousands of feet of space it already has at its Frederick, MD, site. The expansion gets underway in December and should be complete in mid-2017. The project will add about 300 new jobs to the site, which is already the company's largest biologics manufacturing facility. Biologics make up nearly half of the company's pipeline.

Amgen said last week that its new $200 million biologics manufacturing facility, which incorporates continuous processing, is already open in Singapore. Amgen is touting the size of its new plant not because of how large it is but because of how small. The company said it will have the capacity of a conventional plant but occupy a single building. The plant in Tuas uses single-use bioreactors, disposable plastic containers, continuous purification processing and real-time quality analysis for monoclonal antibody manufacturing. The modular-design facility was built in less than two years. The company is so pleased, it's starting on a second facility at its Singapore location.

Then there is the new Bristol-Myers Squibb biologics project, a 320,000-square-foot facility adjacent to a bulk manufacturing facility in Dublin. The plant will have half a dozen 15,000-liter bioreactors and a purification area, as well as office and laboratory space. Between 350 and 400 workers will work at the plant when it is completed in 2019.

To top all of this off, AbbVie ($ABBV) said on Friday it had acquired a 120,000-square-foot API manufacturing facility in Singapore's Tuas Biomedical Park, which is expected to be fully operational in 2016. In February, AbbVie started on a bulk API plant there.

- here's the AstraZeneca announcement
- here's the AbbVie release