April 22, 2002
Volume 80, Number 16
CENEAR 80 16 p. 7
ISSN 0009-2347
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Biotech Leaders Ally In Manufacturing Pact


Genentech will produce Immunex' antirheumatoid arthritis drug Enbrel under a manufacturing agreement signed last week. Sales of the drug have been limited by a supply shortage caused by strong demand and lack of manufacturing capacity.

Immunex, which is in the process of being acquired by Amgen, expects sales of Enbrel, among the top-selling biopharmaceuticals, to hit $1 billion this year, up from $762 million in 2001.

Immunex has already acquired from Wyeth a facility in Rhode Island dedicated to Enbrel production. Wyeth also markets the drug through its pharmaceuticals division. Immunex expects to obtain FDA approval for the plant in the second half of 2002.

The Genentech agreement is a longer term solution to the capacity problem. FDA approval for production by Genentech is not expected until 2004, when its facility in South San Francisco will become a licensed manufacturing plant for the drug. Peggy V. Phillips, executive vice president and chief operating officer at Immunex, says, "This Genentech agreement adds flexibility and depth to our plans to expand the production capacity of Enbrel to the multi-billion-dollar level."

Immunex' latest move underscores a point made in a study of biological manufacturing capacity by analysts at U.S. Bancorp Piper Jaffray. They found that, given current investments, there will be ample capacity for biologics manufacturing as new plants become functional over the next five years. But some biotech companies will face capacity shortfalls in the intervening years as they struggle to match supply with industry demand.

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