Lonza's $200m (€147m) investment in China is continuing to shape up as the firm announced its new small-scale exclusive synthesis manufacturing plant will be up and running next month.
The plant is designed for production of quantities from 10 kg up to several hundreds of kgs, and closes the gap between the kilo lab and the commercial production facilities it already has in the vicinity, the firm said.
The Swiss contract manufacturer has had a ten-year presence in China, with manufacturing facilities in Nansha Guangzhou and Liyang, but the country's low operating costs and expertise in raw materials have lured Lonza into splashing more cash in the region of late.
In April last year the company signed a letter of intent with authorities in Nansha Guangzhou to build, over a three to five year period, a multipurpose active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) and International Standards Organization (ISO)-regulated intermediate plant complex to deliver large scale and pilot scale production capabilities.
The first phase of this programme will be complete once the small-scale plant is fully operational. The firm said it boasts six small reactors including distillation and filtration units that are capable of handling a broad range of technologies, and additional capacity can be added without impacting running operations.
The larger commercial scale API facility is still under construction and will eventually house up to 200m3 in reactor volume, the firm said.
Meanwhile, as its activities in China gain momentum, Lonza is also partial to neighbouring Singapore, with an active biologics programme in the country.
In December the company announced a joint venture with Singapore's Bio*One Capital to build a $350m large-scale biologics manufacturing facility in Singapore and this new project is the second partnership between the two organisations - they signed their first joint venture in February last year to build a similar production plant.
Biologic drugs are one of the key growth drivers of the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries, and the sector is booming, with approximately one fourth of new drugs coming on the market being biopharmaceuticals and generating in excess of $35bn in 2004, with annual sales projected to surpass $52bn by 2010.
Lonza is one of the early Western pioneers in Singapore's biologics industry, which the country is actively trying to nurture.
To assist in the task, the country established Bio*One Capital in 2003, a biomedical sciences investment management company based in Singapore, whose focus is to support the growth of companies in Asia through their operations in Singapore and encourage Western investment.