GSK commits to continuous processing
Several drugmakers have been flirting with continuous process manufacturing, but none have fully engaged with the idea. GlaxoSmithKline has been working on the new technology for 5 or 6 years and is now ready to make a serious commitment to a method that requires radically smaller plants and, further, promises radically lower operating costs.
A GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) plant in Singapore, where the company is investing up to $50 million, will be the first in which the new technology is tried, CEO Andrew Witty recently told shareholders. "This is going to lead I think to a really significant technology leap for the company," he said, during the same earnings call in which he said costs in Europe must be trimmed. Witty said it will mean a "shift from synthetic chemical reaction to enzymatic reactions, and a whole reframing of how we do analytical testing in all of our facilities. The net-net of all of that is a very significant reduction in process time, very significant reduction in cost, carbon footprint inventory and speed."
With the new technology, a plant of only about 100 square meters is required, compared to the 900-square-meter facilities needed for current methods, he said. "So you are talking about a massive reduction in capital deployment and space occupancy obviously, you will see something like a 50% reduction in carbon footprint insolvent use up to a 50% reduction in cost," he said. And this will not be a rarity, Witty said. He went on to explain that between a third and half of the company's current portfolio of drugs could be made using continuous processing.
Genzyme, the biotech subsidiary of Sanofi ($SNY), is also experimenting with continuous processing but has to decide whether it will move to a method that does not have an existing infrastructure of suppliers to support it. Other companies are also giving it a look. In fact, much of the research into the method had been done at the Novartis-MIT Center for Continuous Manufacturing, which was born of a $65 million collaboration between the university and the Swiss drugmaker.
- here's the transcript from Seeking Alpha
Sanofi's Genzyme looking hard at continuous manufacturing
GSK upgrading antibiotic manufacturing in Singapore
GSK to hack jobs in Europe where austerity has taken toll