International bio-pharmaceuticals company UCB, based in Brussels, is to invest €300 million in a new biotechnology plant in Braine l’Alleud in Walloon Brabant, creating 150 new jobs. The company already employs 1,800 people at the site south of Brussels.
The investment is a further step in the company’s mutation from chemical production of drugs to biological production. Several new products created in this way are expected to move out of clinical testing and be cleared for sale on the open market in the coming years, led by a preparation for the skin condition psoriasis.
But the new method of production, using monoclonal antibodies – antibodies created from immune cells cloned from a single parent cell – requires new production facilities, which will be housed in the new unit, which will be additional to one in Switzerland. “A large share of our worldwide production of these new drugs should be produced in the new factory,” a spokesperson for UCB said. The unit will be able to handle the production of different types of medication – whose names end in -mab to indicate the use of monoclonal antibodies) at the same time.
The announcement of the new plant is a confirmation of UCB’s change of strategy following tough times in 2008 and 2009 which led to two rounds of redundancies. Then, the decision was taken to abandon production of some drugs which produced low returns, and turn toward bio-pharmaceutical production. The new €300 million investment is seen as anchoring the Braine site for the near future. Braine will be the company’s only site handling a throughput from research to development to production.
“We are convinced Braine l’Alleud is an ideal location for the implementation of this large-scale manufacturing facility,” the company said in a press release. “And the presence of our Biotech Sciences Team, Bio-Pilot plant and diverse research capabilities on the same site will ensure accelerated product launches and supply reliability,” said Dr. Kirsten Lund-Jurgensen, Executive Vice President and Head of Supply & Technology at UCB.
Construction is scheduled to begin in the first quarter of 2020, and the new plant should be operational in 2024.