Biogen gets all of North Carolina site from Eisai as part of manufacturing build-out

When Biogen ($BIIB) announced a few weeks ago that it intends to build a $1 billion new biologics plant in Switzerland, officials said the Cambridge, MA-based company had more manufacturing expansion up its sleeve. At least part of the great reveal was made last week when Japanese partner Eisai said it was turning over manufacturing operations in North Carolina to Biogen.

Biogen had been leasing an oral solid-dose operation in Research Triangle Park from Eisai since 2012. Now Eisai will now transfer the rest of North Carolina site, which includes filling lines, to Biogen. As part of the deal, Biogen said it expects to offer jobs to about 100 of the 135 employees that work there. Biogen will continue to manufacture OSD products for Eisai, and Eisai said it will contract Biogen to manufacture all of Eisai products that are currently being manufactured at the parenteral facility there. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

For Biogen, taking over the RTP facility is another step in the company's plan to build up its manufacturing capacity and capabilities. With sales of its multiple sclerosis and hemophilia drugs growing, Biogen has already been expanding operations in North Carolina. Earlier this year it said it was filling about 100 positions at both a biologics plant in Morrisville and the solid-dose facility in Durham.

John Cox, Biogen EVP of pharmaceutical operations and technology

The main piece of Biogen's 5-year strategic plan for manufacturing, EVP John Cox said in a blog post, is the $1 billion biologics plant the company announced a couple of weeks ago. The facility, which it expects to start on by year-end, is being built in Luterbach, Switzerland. It will employ about 400 there when it is complete in 2021. Biogen pointed to its portfolio of products in multiple sclerosis and hemophilia, as well as drugs being developed for spinal muscular atrophy and Alzheimer's disease as among those that created the need for a bigger manufacturing network. Eisai has the option of jointly developing with Biogen one of the Alzheimer's drugs on which it has been working.

Biogen's manufacturing strategy has three components, Cox said. In addition to significantly increasing its biologics capacity, it is taking on new capabilities that give it greater control over drug production, packaging and assembly and also "streamlining and modernizing its existing processes and facilities to be more nimble and efficient."

Cox pointed out that one of the "unique aspects of biopharmaceutical manufacturing is that we need to plan years ahead of potential launches because of the technical challenges and requirements to build new capacity. As a company, we're betting on the pipeline products we believe can significantly help patients in the years ahead."

For Eisai the transfer of the RTP operations is another step its effort to cut a projected ¥12 billion ($97 million) in costs in effort to return to growth. It has already taking the ax to 215 jobs in its commercial and regional corporate services units, a 25% haircut.

- read the Biogen blog post
- here's the Eisai release