Week of March 18, 2002
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Czech Plant Will Cost $176M
Growth Flu: Baxter's Two New Vaccine Plants Creating 500By JACK LYNE, Site Selection Executive Editor of Interactive Publishing
BOHUMILE, Czech Republic, and
KREMS, Austria Baxter International's (www.baxter.com) new InfluJect vaccine has given the company a double shot of European expansion. The Deerfield, Ill.-based provider of medical products and services has announced that it will open two new plants that will produce the innovative InfluJect vaccine - one in Bohumile, Czech Republic, the other in Krems, Austria (www.krems.gv.at).
Together, the two new production facilities will create 500 new jobs for scientists and technicians. Three hundred of those high-end positions will work at the Austrian operation, while the smaller Czech plant will employ 200.
Baxter a year ago announced that it intended to open a new plant in 2002 to increase vaccine production capacity. The company didn't, however, specify a location for the new facility. Ultimately, though, Baxter opted instead for two plants. The decision is part of the company's aggressive initiative to build its vaccine sector into a US$1 billion business by the decade's end.
"We believe the combination of these two new facilities will provide us with greater flexibility in responding to worldwide demand for specific vaccines and will position us well for the successful launch of InfluJect," said Thomas Glanzmann, senior vice president and president of Baxter's BioScience business.
Plants' Technology Will Cut Time to MarketMany pharmaceutical analysts like InfluJect's chances of being a major contributor in building Baxter's vaccine business.
Part of that bullishness stems from the vero cell technology that both the Austrian and Czech plants will employ in making InfluJect. Baxter's technology facilitates producing the vaccine while excluding any added proteins or raw materials derived from human or animal sources. That technological system provides several significant product advantages. Chief among them is shortening time to market.
Traditional means of developing flu vaccines have been very time-consuming. The lengthy product development cycles have stemmed largely from procedures that annually use millions of eggs to slowly breed the antigens that trigger protective immune-system reactions.
In contrast, InfluJect production won't use eggs. The result, Baxter scientists have asserted, will be a significantly shorter interval between initial virus identification and the availability of the appropriate vaccine.
Two Plants Reflect European Strategy
Baxter has already completed its Phase III clinical trials in Europe for InfluJect. The company has received regulatory approval for use of the vaccine from the Netherlands; it plans to secure approvals from all other European Union member nations during 2002 and 2003, company officials said.
The two European plants will provide substantial InfluJect output for the EU market. At peak capacity in 2006, the Austrian and Czech operations together will be able to annually produce as many as 42 million doses of the vaccine.
The Austrian plant will provide substantially more output than the Czech facility. Baxter, company officials explained, will build a totally new $176 million, 154,462-sq.-ft. (14,350-sq.-m.) facility in Krems, which is located some 31 miles (50 kilometers) northwest of Vienna. The facility will feature two production suites, one of which will be totally dedicated to producing InfluJect.
"Baxter has made the decision to invest $176 million in constructing a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility using cell culture and recombinant technology," Gordon Busenbark, head of Baxter's Austrian operations, told a news conference announcing the new plant.
Baxter Will Retrofit Czech FacilityThe company hasn't yet released capital investment figures for the Czech plant. Baxter officials did say, however, that total investment in Bohumile would be considerably less than in Krems. Costs should be lower, since Baxter won't be building a greenfield operation in the Czech Republic. Located some 19 miles (30 kilometers) east of Prague, the Czech site, in fact, already contains a partially completed 70,000-sq.-ft. (6,300-sq.-m.) facility.
Baxter bought the Czech site and the unfinished building from SEVAC, a state entity initially created as the Institute of Sera and Vaccines in 1949. The company will retrofit the facility, installing one production suite, Baxter officials said.
The retrofitted Czech operation will go online first, beginning operations in 2004, company officials projected. The greenfield Krems operation, they said, will come online later, sometime in 2005.
Both of Baxter's new facilities will also be equipped to produce other company vaccines. That could ultimately turn out to be a significant business decision - Baxter has more than a dozen other vaccines in the development pipeline.
"The vaccines market is a significant growth opportunity for Baxter because of the increasing world population, greater globalization and resulting increased risk of spread of disease, and threats of bioterrorism," Glanzmann said. "With the investments we have made in research and development of new vaccines, novel technology platforms and production capacity, we expect to grow our vaccines business into a $1 billion business by 2010."
The InfluJect vaccine is scheduled for a later debut in the U.S. market, company officials said. Baxter plans to initiate Phase I clinical U.S. trials of InfluJect in 2002.
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