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Pfizer goes to China for biologic drugs

Planned $350 million facility will employ single-use bioreactors from GE

by Rick Mullin
June 30, 2016 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 94, ISSUE 27

Credit: Pfizer
A computer rendering of the biologics plant Pfizer is planning for China.

Pfizer plans to spend about $350 million on a facility in China dedicated to producing the generic biologic drugs known as biosimilars. The facility, Pfizer’s third biologics plant and its first in Asia, will employ modular, single-use bioreactors supplied by GE Healthcare.

The facility will include logistics and engineering operations, clinical-stage development operations, and commercial-scale biologics manufacturing. Although the company intends to serve global markets, it is particularly targeting China in the wake of government reforms that aim to bolster the pharmaceutical sector.

“We believe that the Pfizer Global Biotechnology Center in Hangzhou will help support China’s aim to increase the complexity and value of its manufacturing sector by 2025 and contribute to building a truly innovative and vibrant biopharmaceutical industry,” says John Young, president of Pfizer Essential Health.

The Chinese government issued guidelines for biologics manufacturing last year.

Pfizer says the KUBio single-use bioreactors to be supplied by GE will allow it to build the plant in half the time and at under half the cost of a biologics plant employing traditional stainless steel reactors. GE also claims the technology can accelerate speed to market by eliminating cleaning cycles. Carbon dioxide emissions and water and energy use are expected to be cut by up to 75%.

Similar advantages were claimed by Amgen and WuXi AppTec, which recently built large biologics plants based on single-use technology in Singapore and China, respectively. Pfizer is also using single-use bioreactors at a biologics plant it is building in Andover, Mass., to produce materials for clinical trials.

The Hangzhou facility is expected to open in 2018 and create about 150 jobs.



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