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Biogen, Merck, Novartis, others have plants recognized for innovations

Facility of the Year Awards selects 6 from U.S., U.K., Ireland, Switzerland
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While it is new drugs like those for targeting cancer cells, or interferon-free hep C meds or drugs for rare diseases that grab headlines, they all must come through a manufacturing process. Many of the plants that produce those therapies are built around innovative processes or unique designs or require special effort to design and build. And once a year, the Facility of the Year Awards (FOYA) recognizes some of those projects internationally that make new innovations in medicine possible.

Biogen Idec won in the integration category for a project at its Research Triangle Park, NC, plant.

This year's winners were winnowed down from 27 entries and come from the U.S., Ireland, the U.K. and Switzerland, including three vaccine facilities.

The FOYA recognizes "the pharmaceutical industry's innovation and technical advances in facility manufacturing, which ultimately is about helping patients," said Chaz Calitri, vice president of network performance at Pfizer ($PFE) and chair of the judging panel. The following 6 were selected.

Biogen Idec ($BIIB) won in the integration category for a project at its Research Triangle Park, NC, plant where it built a flexible volume manufacturing (FVM) facility for clinical batch work, tying it to existing 2K small-scale manufacturing and 15K large-scale manufacturing, without disrupting production. The plant produces treatments for neurodegenerative diseases, hemophilia and autoimmune disorders.

F. Hoffmann-La Roche, won the project execution award for a project in Basel, Switzerland, where it consolidated Roche ($RHHBY) research and development groups for oral solid dosage and liquid parenteral dosage forms for clinical studies into a single facility while accommodating concerns of the adjacent residential area and strict city codes.

MedImmune won in the equipment innovation category for quickly customizing existing equipment at its Speke, Liverpool, vaccine plant in the U.K. to meet increased demand for its influenza vaccine Intranasal when commercial equipment was not readily available.

Novartis' vaccines and diagnostics division won the process innovation category for its U.S. Flu Cell Culture Facility in Holly Springs, NC.

Merck ($MRK) won in the operational excellence category for employing the Lean Six "philosophy" to guide design and construction when building its first greenfield sterile processing facility outside the U.S. The Vaccine and Biologics Sterile Facility (VBSF) Project is in Carlow, Ireland.

Morphotek won the award for sustainability for its pilot plant in Exton, PA, which reclaimed a brownfield site and which employs energy efficiency and other sustainability features.

Novartis' ($NVS) vaccines and diagnostics division won the process innovation category for its U.S. Flu Cell Culture Facility in Holly Springs, NC, where it used "breakthrough" technology to build a large-scale plant that will use deep tank mammalian cell technology to more quickly produce vaccines.

The awards are sponsored by the International Society for Pharmaceutical Engineers (ISPE), INTERPHEX, and Pharmaceutical Processing magazine. While this year's awards were dominated by innovations in vaccine manufacturing, last year's were heavy on trial plants. 

- here's the release
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Trial-supply plants dominate facility awards