- Swiss drug manufacturer Lonza said Wednesday it received government approval to resume production at most of its plants in China, days after extending holiday plant closures to protect employees amid the outbreak of a new coronavirus.
- The company has three operational facilities in China, including one in Guangdong that manufactures small molecule drug ingredients and another in Jiangsu that produces capsules and microbial control solutions.
- On Feb. 3, Lonza said it had begun notifying customers who might have been affected by the closures, noting "limited disruption." A Feb. 5 update on production resuming said the company doesn't anticipate any interruptions.
The economic effects are starting to mount as health workers struggle to address the coronavirus outbreak, which has spread from China to at least 24 other countries. As of Feb. 5, the World Health Organization had recorded 24,554 cases of the virus around the world and nearly 500 deaths.
The contagion prompted Airbus to shut down a Chinese factory, impacting production of its A320neo narrow body plane made there, the Wall Street Journal reported. Earlier, numerous media outlets reported Hyundai had halted manufacturing at its South Korean facilities because it wasn't getting the parts it needed from Chinese suppliers affected by the outbreak.
Now, the pharmaceutical industry is bracing for delays in the delivery of crucial ingredients and the possible disruption of clinical trials.
Lonza on Feb. 3 said most of its facilities in China had extended the normal closures for the Chinese New Year holiday into this week. Lonza doesn't have any manufacturing sites in Hubei province, where the virus was first detected.
Bristol-Myers Squibb, meanwhile, noted on Feb. 5 that it had "limited and restricted" employee travel to and from China. The pharma is monitoring its manufacturing facilities, but said it doesn't expect any disruption in the supply of its medicines.
While Lonza and other manufacturers are taking precautions, such as temperature checks and face masks, travel restrictions may hamper operations even if local authorities deem it's safe to start up again. Outside auditors might be unable to enter China, and some employees will be banned from traveling back to where they work after being home for the holiday, C&EN reported.
Meanwhile, clinical trials may suffer as well. A BioCentury analysis found that at least 22 major companies are conducting studies in China and 18 have sites in Wuhan. Roche may be the most affected, as about a third of its clinical studies have sites in China, including 11 with a site in Wuhan, BioCentury found.