The new €325 million state-of-the-art WuXi Biologics facility has begun to take structural form as steel erection begins on the company’s 52-acre campus site in Dundalk. Work is on schedule for the new contract manufacturing biologics facility which, at 48,000 square metres in size, is set to become the world’s largest single-use biologics manufacturing facility.
Planning approval for the facility was confirmed in mid-January. Since then some 200,000 tonnes of earth have been moved and relocated within the site during site-development works while 2,900 cubic metres of concrete poured for foundations. In all, over 5,000 tonnes of steel sourced from an Irish supplier has arrived on site to enable steel-works get underway.
“The project is truly moving at ‘WuXi speed’ and we are delighted with progress to date”, said WuXi Biologics Ireland Site Head and VP Manufacturing Brendan McGrath. “Cladding work will commence at the end of July and we are on target to have all of the buildings weather tight by January. This will enable us to move ahead with the installation of the processing plant and equipment to bring us into full commercial production on schedule by 2022.”
The rapidly advancing schedule will see the number of construction workers on site increase from 120 at present to 500 by year end. Peak construction employment for the project will reach 2,000.
Mr McGrath paid tribute to the project team. “This rapid progress has been made possible by the excellent standards of our project partners Wills Bros., IPS Engineering, Jacobs Engineering, Kiernan’s Structural Steel Longford and a number of other contractors who are working with us on the Dundalk facility”, he said. “We have also enjoyed tremendous support from IDA Ireland and Louth County Council as well as from the local community and this is greatly appreciated.”
WuXi Biologics is China’s leading end-to-end biologics solutions provider and the Dundalk campus which is to be WuXi Biologics first manufacturing facility outside China. Biologics drugs represent a new frontier in medicine. Developed in bioreactors from genetically engineered microbes, these medicines are developed within living cell culture; a highly complex process which involves the production of fragile substances at heavy cost. “The production of highly specialised biologics medicines often involves the manufacture of relatively small quantities of highly specialised drugs”, Brendan McGrath explained.
“Generally, it is neither practical nor economic to manufacture small volumes of specialist biologics medicines in traditional large-scale biopharma facilities. Instead, the single use technology and processes which we will create in our new Dundalk campus will allow for cost-efficient scale-out of contract manufacturing biologics production from small to large volumes as required.”
This advanced technology will establish a ‘factory of the future’ in Dundalk and reinforce Ireland’s leading position globally in biologics manufacturing. “The new facility is designed to employ high performance single-use biologics manufacturing technology and will have the capability to run multiple batches simultaneously, delivering biologics medicines at a significantly lower cost than is possible using traditional systems”, McGrath explained.
“This will have profound implications as it will help to reduce the cost of medicines production, he continued. “As a contract development and manufacturing business, WuXi Biologics currently numbers over 50 per cent of the world’s leading biopharma companies as customers. Reflecting our commitment to breakthrough innovation in supporting the production of new medicines at effective cost, WuXi Biologics is working with about 12 per cent of all the currently known candidate drugs in the global biologics pipeline while also actively pioneering technologies for continuous production processes, laying the foundations for exciting biopharma innovation in Dundalk.”
The new facility also represents a tremendous opportunity for Irish graduates across a range of disciplines to work in a world class environment. “We are inviting talented people to join us on the exciting journey which will see us develop a large-scale integrated facility to produce of some of the world’s most innovative biologics medicines,” said McGrath. “We hope experienced local and international talent will look to the WuXi Biologics operations in Dundalk, or indeed in China, for exciting career opportunities and challenges at the leading edge of biopharma innovation and production. Recruitment for senior roles at the Dundalk facility has already commenced and mainstream recruitment is planned to begin in the second half of this year.