- The Swiss contracting giant Lonza is partnering with GE Healthcare to build a manufacturing facility in China for biologic drugs, the contract development and manufacturing organization said Monday.
- The plant will be roughly 180,000 square feet and employ 160 workers. Lonza expects to be manufacturing out of the site by 2020.
- The facility, which will focus on antibodies, will be in Guangzhou, a port city northwest of Hong Kong in southern China. The agreement falls within a broader deal GE Healthcare has with the city's economic development zone, called the Guangzhou Development District.
This new facility links up the health-focused subsidiary of General Electric with one of the largest CDMOs in the industry, and is a further sign of the emergence of Chinese biotechs with home-grown drug development pipelines.
In September, a Chinese company became the first ever to take a cancer drug that originated in China from discovery to approval, a milestone achievement for the country's domestic sector. Changes in rules on the Hong Kong stock exchange, meanwhile, have helped to fuel a boom in public listings of Chinese biotechs, including some of the largest initial public offerings seen in the field.
At the same time, major pharma companies — AstraZeneca, Novartis and Sanofi among them — are looking again to the country as a source of growth.
Lonza's decision to build reflects this growth, and speaks to an increasing demand for complex manufacturing of large molecule medicines in China. Historically, China's been better known for its manufacturing of active pharmaceutical ingredients for products developed by foreign drugmakers.
"With Lonza coming on site, a hub of biotech is truly taking shape," GE Healthcare Life Sciences CEO Emmanuel Ligner said in a statement.
A handful of Chinese biotechs, including Beigene and Cellular BioMedicine, have signed deals in recent years with GE for use of the multinational conglomerate's biomanufacturing technology.
The Guangzhou plant will expand Lonza's biologics network, which includes facilities in Switzerland, the U.S., the U.K., Spain and Singapore. Marc Funk, the chief operating officer for Lonza Pharma and Biotech, said the deal will help the CDMO get therapies to patients faster.
One part of the plant will use GE bioreactors in combination with Lonza's automation platforms for small-scale manufacturing, Lonza stated.
The deal between GE Healthcare and Lonza will be finalized when contracts have been signed with the Guangzhou Development District. The companies did not disclose financial details of the deal.