Following a charm offensive by several US states, Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS) has selected Devens, Massachusetts to build a significant manufacturing facility for several of its biologic drugs, ending months of speculation about the site's location.
BMS was spoiled for choice as three more states - North Carolina, New York and Rhode Island - offered economic incentives to entice the pharmaceutical giant, such as tax breaks and less regulatory burden.
Trained labour, accessibility to the site and low operational costs were all factored in to the company's decision, which came after what BMS claims was a thorough evaluation of potential domestic and international sites.
This large-scale multi-product bulk biologics manufacturing facility is of great importance for BMS because it will allow it to ramp up commercial production of Orencia (abatacept), its popular rheumatoid arthritis medication, and have capacity for other biologic compounds currently in development, including its investigational treatments for solid organ transplant rejection and certain types of cancer.
The biopharmaceutical sector is certainly proving lucrative for pharma companies, with approximately one-fourth of new drugs coming on the market being biopharmaceuticals and annual sales projected to surpass $52bn (€40bn) by 2010.
Although BMS has recruited all the help it can get from contracting manufacturers like Lonza and Celltrion, it is still struggling to keep up with demand for Orencia.
The drug giant currently manufactures biologic compounds in its facility in Syracuse, NY, and finishes and packages them in Manati, Puerto Rico.
Yet the Syracuse facility was not designed to accommodate large-scale commercial production and its manufacturing capacity cannot meet market demand for Orencia, so the site will now serve as a centre of excellence in process development and early product launch for the company's biologic compounds.
The new facility, on the other hand, will be modular in design, allowing future expansion if necessary.
What is more, for the Puerto Rico facility, the company last March announced a $200m investment to accommodate increased filling and finishing needs.
"Biologics offer tremendous potential in treating a number of serious diseases, and they will play a key role in driving our company's future growth and success," said BMS CEO Peter Dolan.
"The investment in the Devens facility represents a significant commitment toward increasing manufacturing capacity so that we can meet future market demand and research production needs for the company's biologic compounds."
Construction is expected to begin by September 2006 and the facility is expected to be ready in 2009, although it will not be before 2011 that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) finishes its inspections and gives the green light for operations to start.
The site will have an initial workforce of approximately 350 employees, with potential to recruit another 200, while the average annual pay there is reported to be around $60,000.
The Boston-area is not known for its low labour costs, nevertheless the ample biotechnology expertise in the area, albeit in R&D rather than manufacturing, along with the state's economic incentives clinched the deal for Massachusetts.
Apart from the initial commitment of $660m, BMS has said the long-term investment at the site could reach $1.1bn.