- Bayer plans on spending $150 million to create a new 40,000-square-foot facility for biologics development and manufacturing.
- The Cell Culture Technology Center will be built on Bayer's campus in Berkeley, California, and focus primarily on biologic therapies for oncology, cardiology and additional specialty care areas.
- The German drugmaker expects clinical production at the center will begin in late 2021, supported by the integration of GE Healthcare's FlexFactory platform. Mostly comprised of single-use technologies, FlexFactory has already gained some traction in the industry — namely in China, where companies like Beigene and Clover Biopharmaceuticals have shown interest.
Until recently, pharmaceuticals outpaced Bayer's other business units of consumer health, animal science and crop science. But the division isn't performing as well as the company would like.
Bayer brought in 16.7 billion euros from pharmaceuticals last year, down slightly from 2017 on a reported basis. Currency exchange rates weighed on the total, but the company acknowledged there were production problems as well, including some negative changes to supply and distribution agreements.
"[W]e were unable to fully exploit our growth potential because of production bottlenecks in the pharmaceuticals division," Bayer said in its most recent annual report.
The company has turned to restructuring different programs to make pharmaceuticals more efficient. Shortly after receiving approval for Jivi, its recombinant factor VIII hemophilia therapy, Bayer announced it would eliminate 227 jobs from a hemophilia drug manufacturing center also located at its Berkeley campus.
A Bayer spokesperson wrote in an email to BioPharma Dive that, by the end of 2021, the company expects to have created up to 100 new positions at that campus.
"As we define the staffing needs for the Cell Culture Technology Center, positions will be posted and all current and former employees would be eligible to apply," the spokesperson wrote. "Because of the nature of the facility, we anticipate that most of the positions will be in clinical development, although it’s too early to know the full scope of each role."
Bayer didn't disclose in a May 9 release how the center will affect development or manufacturing costs.
In 2018, Bayer spent 2.9 billion euros on pharmaceutical R&D, representing 55% of the company's overall R&D spend. The company noted "continued growth opportunities in biologics and novel technologies" in its annual report, and intends to pursue external innovation through research and licensing deals.
Other industry players have also made recent investments in large-molecule therapies. Fellow German drugmaker Boehringer Ingelheim revealed early this year plans to expand capabilities at a biologics plant in China. And in October, Merck & Co. confirmed it was building a second manufacturing facility at an existing site in Carlow, Ireland, to support vaccine and biologics production.
GE Healthcare has been getting in on the action as well. Several months before Danaher agreed to buy it for $21.4 billion, GE Healthcare said it would be opening a new facility in the U.K. aimed at streamlining biologics manufacturing.