- Boehringer Ingelheim is injecting £230 million ($268 million) into its biologics business to create a new facility focused on the large-molecule drugs.
- The BDC, short for Biologicals Development Center, will be mixed use: incorporating clinical trials, manufacturing, and analytical and process development under one roof. It will employ around 500 workers, and have a staggered launch starting in 2020, Boehringer estimates.
- In a statement, the German drugmaker said it's pledging more than 20% of the net sales it gets from human pharmaceuticals to R&D. During its last fiscal year, those sales reached £12.6 billion ($13.7 billion).
At an R&D press conference in April, Boehringer reported about 80 drugs at the preclinical or later stages of its pipeline, and estimated 15 would likely gain approval by 2025. Executives laid out five important therapeutic areas for the company: immunology, oncology, central nervous system disorders, fibrosis and cardiometabolic diseases.
Those first two areas are proving to be quite the catalyst for Boehringer's investment in biologics.
"The BDC is another key building block supporting the company’s long-term strategy for increasing the pipeline’s share of biologicals. This is particularly driven by two of our core areas, immune oncology and immunology," Fridtjof Traulsen, Boehringer's corporate senior vice president of development, said in the Friday statement.
Traulsen added that new biologic entities now comprise 40% of the company's pipeline.
The steady growth of its biologics business reflects how the large-molecule drugs have beefed up Boehringer's bottom line.
Praxbind (idarucizumab), for instance, is a biologic agent that reverses the effects of Boehringer's blood thinner Pradaxa (dabigatran etexilate). Such a safety net has helped alleviate physician concerns about prescribing Pradaxa, in turn lifting revenue for the new oral anticoagulant — which grew 4% to £1.44 billion ($1.56 billion) in the last fiscal year.
With examples like Praxbind on record, Boehringer has poured hundreds of millions of dollars into increasing biologics manufacturing capacity over the last few years.
In 2015, for instance, it announced a roughly £500 million ($534 million) investment in its Austrian facility. And in 2017, the company both opened a $77 million Chinese plant built for contract development and manufacturing of monoclonal antibodies and recombinant proteins, and earmarked $217 million for an expansion project at its Fremont, California, production site.
Looking ahead, a few biologic assets appear to be a top priority for Boehringer. One is a first-in-class interleukin-36 receptor antibody under investigation as a treatment for ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease and a couple kinds of psoriasis.