Biologics giant Biogen is investing USD one billion in a next-generation manufacturing facility in Luterbach, near Solothurn, Switzerland, tripling production capacity and creating 400 new jobs.
The decision to situate the new capabilities outside of North America reflects an eagerness to attain a greater level of diversity across our production platforms
The US company Biogen’s rapidly expanding pipeline of highly complex biologic drugs and medicines for diseases such as Alzheimer’s and multiple sclerosis has led to a need for increased manufacturing capacity globally. According to Biogen Switzerland Managing Director Natascha Schill, “the decision to situate the new capabilities outside of North America reflects an eagerness to attain a greater level of diversity across our production platforms.” In terms of manufacturing strategy, Schill explains that, “Biogen’s production capabilities incorporate an in-built structural versatility and flexibility. The principle is actually to be able to manufacture any of our biologic drug substances in any of our facilities around the world.” However, the new Swiss plant, scheduled to be operational by 2021, differs in that “it will be kitted out with next-generation technology.”
For Schill, Switzerland was an obvious choice of location for the new facility; “we’re talking about a politically stable, business friendly and predictable country with a long tradition in pharmaceuticals development and strong track record on fostering innovation.” Switzerland’s geographic location was also a significant factor for Schill, as it is “right in the heart of Europe with great connectivity by train and air to many of the most valuable and significant European pharma markets.” Furthermore, sourcing human resources for the 400 new jobs that will be created is comparatively easy in Switzerland thanks to its “dual education system and multilingual, multiethnic talent pool.”
It seems therefore that the high operational costs of Switzerland as a pharma manufacturing destination are worthwhile for companies dealing with complex biologic drugs for the location, infrastructure, pharmaceutical tradition, and local talent. Schill goes on to point out that in Switzerland, “ready access to clean water and reliable electricity is assured at all times: we know that our power is highly unlikely to go down if there is a storm. All of this is important to factor in when you are developing and handling complex medicines such a biologics that are sensitive to changes in temperature and pressure.”