US drug maker Bristol-Myers Squibb has said it will invest $200m (€166m) to expand its Puerto Rico facility, driven by a thirst for biologics that the firm is trying to quench, both in-house and through contract manufacturing.
Driving the expansion is Orencia, a popular rheumatoid arthritis medication made from hamster cells, which was approved in late last year and is being manufactured at a company plant in Syracuse.
Despite having recruited Lonza's contract manufacturing services for the production of the drug, Bristol-Myers Squibb is still looking for more capacity, so it has now turned to its only Biologics facility in Puerto Rico.
The New-York based company said it will add 100,000 square feet of new space at its Manati site and renovate an additional 30,000 square feet of existing space for the filling and finishing of the its sterile products and biologic compounds.
Apart from Orencia, the site currently manufactures products such as Coumadin, Sustiva and Cardiolite.
"Biologics represent a key growth driver for Bristol-Myers Squibb in the coming years, and we are excited about the potential therapies we are developing in this area of medicine, including investigational compounds for the treatment of certain cancers and solid organ transplant rejection," said Carlo de Notaristefani, Bristol-Myers Squibb's president of technical operations.
"Our manufacturing strategy involves a combination of expanding our own internal biologic production capacity, coupled with strategic partnerships with third party suppliers.
"The investment in Manati will build on the site's existing technical strength and experience in biologics, and demonstrates Bristol-Myers Squibb's commitment to increasing our in-house sterile manufacturing capacity as well as to the local community."
The biopharmaceutical sector is 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 by 2010.
Last month, Bristol-Myers Squibb approved a plan to build a $660m plant to make biologic products in the US.
No site has yet been chosen and four states are under consideration; Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina and Rhode Island.
Construction is scheduled to start by the autumn and it will take five years to complete the building and regulatory requirements for production.
The facility will be modular in design in order to accommodate future expansion.