In the last month alone, CDMO giant Lonza has announced three major upgrades to its manufacturing footprint in Visp, Western Switzerland: a huge expansion of its biologics capacity, new production lines for the manufacture of antibody-drug conjugates, and a ramping up of its workforce dedicated to the production of ingredients for Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine.
The most recent announcement of a CHF 650 million (EUR 594 million) investment into a new large scale 27,500 m2 production facility aims to create “large-scale” cell production lines, adding six 20,000-liter bioreactors to meet the increasing market demand for biologics. 300 new jobs are set to be generated and a projected completion date of 2024 has been given.
This announcement came hot on the heels of another investment, this time for CHF 200 million (EUR 183 million), for a new manufacturing facility dedicated to small molecules and is set to create another 200 jobs. This project, the first stage of which will be the construction of a production line dedicated to antibody drug conjugates (ADCs), is being built in partnership with an as-yet unnamed “biopharmaceutical partner”. Lonza already produces the majority of commercially available drug products which use ADCs; a class of highly potent active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) designed for the targeted treatment of cancer.
ADCs represent a highly promising but complex field, as Chris Martin of ADC Therapeutics explained to PharmaBoardroom in February, “In a way, ADCs are a simple concept. There is the antibody, which binds to a protein that is exclusively or predominantly expressed on the surface of tumour cells. To analogize, it acts as a guided missile. It finds and binds to the tumour cell, where it becomes internalized, and then the enzymes in the cell release the toxin into the cell, so that it can kill the tumour cell. The tricky part about ADCs is that they are relatively complicated to develop and manufacture because they combine very potent drugs with complex biologics and antibodies.”
Also in April, Lonza announced that it would create 1,200 new jobs at its COVID-19 vaccine production site, also in Visp. In 2020, the firm established three new production lines to manufacture up to one billion doses of one of the APIs for Moderna’s jab over ten years. The deal relates to supply for the global market, excluding the US, and the company has prioritised boosting its workforce to meet an annual target of 300 million doses. As well as drawing from the Swiss labour pool, Lonza is also actively looking to recruit from neighbouring geographies such as Germany, France, and Northern Italy, as well as the UK.