Foreign Direct InvestmentWuxi Biologics

WuXi Biologics: A New Wave of Innovation

Brendan McGrath, Ireland Site Head and VP Manufacturing at WuXi Biologics, on developing capacity at the leading edge of biopharma innovation and production.

Accepting Chambers Ireland InBusiness Magazine 2020 Best in FDI Recognition Award, WuXi Biologics and Brendan McGrath, Ireland Site Head and VP Manufacturing at WuXi Biologics, are happy that the company’s new relationship with Ireland and with Dundalk, is progressing well and at pace. In expressing appreciation for the ‘2020 Best in FDI’ accolade McGrath paid tribute to the goodwill that Dundalk’s Chamber of Commerce and the local community have shown to the WuXi investment to date. “Great goodwill,” he acknowledged, “is also reflected in the support provided by the likes of IDA Ireland and Louth County Council, utility providers, the extended business and local community and many others including the contractors, workforce and our site neighbours who have greatly contributed to the successful development of the biologics project to date.” Biologics medicines are at the forefront of a new wave of innovative diagnostics and therapies which are changing how diseases are prevented and treated, to help millions of people worldwide. The Dundalk facility will be a state-of-the-art ‘factory of the future’ built upon the novel approach which has been developed by WuXi Biologics, one of the top three Contract Development and Manufacturing Organisations (CDMOs) on the global market, for the commercial biomanufacturing of biologic medicines. WuXi Biologics offers end-to-end solutions to partner organisations, including some of the world’s leading biopharmaceutical companies, who work with WuXi Biologics to discover, to develop and to manufacture biologics medicines from initial concept through to commercial manufacturing.

 

FACTORY OF THE FUTURE

The WuXi construction campus in Dundalk, on which WuXi Biologics is constructing its ‘factory of the future’, the company’s first contract-manufacturing investment outside of China, has been a hive of construction activity throughout 2020. Construction on the €325m biologics manufacturing facility began in February 2019 and at the end of 2020 some 85% of the development was completed. The construction contract is scheduled for completion by Q3 2021 to enable commissioning and trial production to begin before the end of this year as the facility readies for production during 2022, providing 400 jobs. With operations in China, Ireland, Germany, and the United States, WuXi Biologics is headquartered in Wuxi City, Jiangsu, China. In 2018 when announcing the Irish investment WuXi Biologics acknowledged having looked at ten locations in Europe before settling on Dundalk for its biologics facility. Recognising Ireland, with a large pharma and bio-pharma cluster in place and now the only English-speaking country in the EU post-Brexit, the WuXi Biologics decision acknowledges that the Dundalk area has the skills pool, the necessary infrastructure and the support services which its ‘factory of the future’ biologics manufacturing facility will require. 

The environment in Ireland is also very conducive to doing business and the Government and IDA Ireland are always looking for ways to interface better with business and reduce red tape. The location in Dundalk, half-way between the Chinese and US time-zones also puts WuXi on the map for European drug developers.

 

GLOBAL INNOVATION

Presenting the project to Dundalk Chamber of Commerce members during the past year, McGrath explained that WuXi Biologics, as a contract development and manufacturing business, is unique in that it operates the world’s only open-access biologics technology production platform. “WuXi Biologics is the only biopharma company headquartered in China which has received approval to-date from both the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the European Medicines Agency (EMA) to manufacture biologics for the global market,” , he also noted. “As one of the top three global CDMOs, WuXi Biologics is working with about 13 percent of all the known new drugs currently in the discovery/development phase in the global biologics pipeline.” “In combination with well-established world-class research expertise, state-of-the-art technologies, and access to proprietary methodology through its Chinese and international operations, WuXi Biologics helps client and partner companies globally to identify and help develop candidate drugs for the full spectrum of disease areas. Its open-access platform fosters collaboration and advances in biologics, offering customers a full suite of services from biologics drug discovery to commercial manufacturing. It also offers a cost-effective and efficient way to transform our customers’ ideas into potential medical treatments.”

 

WuXi Biologics next-generation manufacturing technology at its Dundalk facility.

 

NEXT GENERATION MANUFACTURING

WuXi Biologics will implement a next-generation manufacturing technology at its Dundalk facility. This technology utilises single-use bioreactors to manufacture biologics drug substances on a continuous round-the-clock basis with the ability to quickly switch product lines in response to customer requirements. ‘Factory of the future’ technology involves the use of single-use bioreactors. Instead of the stainless-steel vessels which are normally utilised in the biologics manufacturing process, highly specialised disposable plastic containers/bags are used for each production batch. This enables the same production line to produce a variety of different products without the constant need for costly process shut-downs in the production processes and it also reduces the consumption levels of key utilities, such as power and water. In comparison with an equivalent scale stainless steel facility, McGrath noted that, “This production methodology increases productivity, reduces cost, and facilitates the production of small volumes or to quickly scale up to the production of large volumes of specialised medicines, as required, for the treatment of diseases.” “The Dundalk facility,” he explained, “will be able to manufacture medicines on a round-the-clock basis, with the ability to quickly switch product lines in response to customer requirements.” He added, “WuXi Biologics will use its new Dundalk facility to ensure that its innovative manufacturing technology is accessible to global clients producing leading medicines in an EU-regulated environment.” Commenting on employment opportunities with WuXi Biologics in Dundalk, McGrath said: “A greenfield biologics campus presents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for great talent to join us in Dundalk to develop a full-scale WuXi Biologics China-Ireland-International integrated capability to produce of some of the world’s most innovative biologics medicines. We are inviting experienced local and international talent to ensure that the WuXi Biologics operations in Dundalk, and in mainland China, will provide exciting career opportunities and challenges for leading talent at all levels at the leading edge of biopharma innovation and production.”