WuXi starts work in China on yet another cell-line manufacturing facility

WuXi PharmaTech CEO Ge Li

Wuxi PharmaTech ($WX), which is making a big push into cell line manufacturing, has started work on a $150 million plant in China, after already starting on new facilities in the U.S.

The China and U.S.-centric company claims that when complete in 2017, the plant in Wuxi City will be the largest biologics plant in China and the largest mammalian cell culture manufacturing facility in the world using disposable bioreactors. The plant is designed to hold 14 2,000-liter disposable bioreactors for fed-batch cell culture and two 1,000-liter bioreactors for perfusion runs. The company said the facility will also have the capabilities to do continuous manufacturing and semicontinuous manufacturing, as well as traditional fed-batch and perfusion processing.

"This project continues to strengthen WuXi's capabilities in integrated biologics discovery, development, and manufacturing services," CEO Ge Li said in a statement.

Earlier this year, the company announced it would spend about $200 million in 2015 on expansion of its manufacturing operations. It started in March on a 145,000-square-foot cell therapy manufacturing plant in Philadelphia, which it expects to open in mid-2016. That facility will be focused on cell therapy products, such as CAR-T cells, used in targeted cancer treatments. WuXi already has a 16,000-square-foot cell manufacturing facility at its complex in Philadelphia and another 45,000-square-foot cell production plant underway there that is slated to open in the second quarter of this year.

Contract manufacturers see cell manufacturing, while complicated, as a big opportunity even as some drugmakers want to own their capabilities. Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies said last year it would add identical 2,000-liter single-use bioreactors to its plants in Research Triangle Park, NC, and Billingham, U.K., to expand its cell culture manufacturing. In March, Germantown, MD-based Orgenesis agreed to trade about $24.6 million in shares to contract manufacturer MaSTherCell to nail down its own facility for its process to reprogram human liver cells in people with Type 1 diabetes into insulin-producing cells. MaSTherCell is based in Brussels, Belgium.

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