With sales of its vaccines expected to triple in the next ten years, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) has decided to invest more than €500m in a new manufacturing facility in St-Amand-Les-Eaux in order to increase production capacity for paediatric and adult vaccines.
The new site will boost GSK's formulation, filling, freeze-drying and packaging capabilities in vaccines by around 50 per cent when it becomes operational in 2011, contributing to the production of many of the company's investigational vaccines, including a new flu vaccine to protect against seasonal influenza and Cervarix, a candidate vaccine for the prevention cervical cancer.
The British drug giant is looking to cash in on the rapid expansion of the global vaccine market which grew over 15 per cent to €10.9bn last year, €2bn of which went to GSK.
"GSK's vaccines business is enjoying explosive growth," said Jean Steephenne, president of GSK Biologicals.
"We have a very potent pipeline with lots of new products covering pediatric vaccines for unmet medical need as well as new areas such as therapeutic vaccines in the area of cancer and allergy, thanks to innovative vaccine technologies that we believe put us ahead of the competition."
Apart from the eagerly anticipated Cervarix, the new French facility will also manufacture a paediatric vaccine designed to protect against Streptococcus pneumonia and non-typeable Haemophilus influenzae infactions.
The site will house a freeze drying plant which will transform vaccines from a liquid into a solid powder, a particularly complex operation used to enhance the shelf-life and stability vaccines.
In addition, the facility will be equipped with a liquid plant for filling syringes and vials, a packing plant and warehouse, a power plant and quality control laboratories.
GSK has been increasing its capacity to supply vaccines across the globe by strengthening its manufacturing network in Asia, Europe and North America.
Four months ago the drugmaker announced its biggest vaccine investment in Asia, pledging more than $2.5bn (€2bn) over the next four years on the first phase of development of a plant in Singapore dedicated to the primary production of paediatric vaccines.
Last year GSK invested €94.3m to double production capacity for its Influsplit/Fluarix flu vaccine in Dresden, Germany, and opened its €150m facility in Godollo, Hungary, which is dedicated to the primary production of diphtheria and tetanus bacterial substances and whooping cough (pertussis) antigens used in several paediatric combination vaccines.
In 2005, GSK also made three important acquisitions in North America. It bought a secondary manufacturing site in Pennsylvania for cell culture-based flu vaccines and took over Corixa, a developer of vaccine adjuvants. It also acquired ID Biomedical which provides GSK with a significant increase in flu vaccine manufacturing capacity to address both seasonal and pandemic influenza threats.
With 30 vaccines already marketed around the world and five major new ones in the works, GSK's appetite for manufacturing capacity shows no sign of abating.