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Randi Hernandez was science editor at BioPharm International from September 2014 to May 2017.
WuXi said its biologics manufacturing business will be one of the company’s key growth drivers over the next several years.
Although biologics currently represent 7.6% of WuXi's total revenue, growth in its biologics manufacturing business is expected to grow "exponentially" in the third and fourth quarters of 2015, Ge Li, chairman and CEO of WuXi PharmaTech said on Aug. 14, 2015 in a second-quarter earnings call.
WuXi is experiencing strong demand for its biologics manufacturing capabilities, which is one of the reasons the company is expanding its capacity in China via construction of a GMP manufacturing suite. Construction on the plant will begin in early 2016 and the facility is scheduled to be online the same year, said Li. Executives said the commercial facility has to be online by 2016 to address a $70-million backlog of biologics projects the company has in the pipeline. In total, WuXi has planned or is planning 15 GMP manufacturing campaigns during 2014 and 2015.
A growing biologics business
Li said the company has 50 biologics customers; six of these customers are among the 20 largest pharmaceutical companies in the world. Revenue in WuXi’s biologics division was up 120% in the second quarter and “is expected to double for the full year of 2014.” According to executives, WuXi’s China Lab Services division grew 14.2%, “driven by rapid growth in biologics, development services, and growth in lab testing services.”
Cell therapies are gaining steam
The company’s US Lab Services division “delivered solid 9.6% year-over-year growth, driven by strong growth in cell therapy and material characterization services,” said Edward Hu, CFO and CIO of the company. The company has 15 cell therapy customers, including NewLink Genetics, with whom it is working on cell therapy candidates for the treatment of pancreatic cancer.
Strong demand for cell therapies led the company to begin construction on a new cell therapy manufacturing facility in Philadelphia, which will be finished in mid-2015. The Philadelphia facility will add cGMP manufacture capabilities for allogeneic and autologous cell-based therapeutics and will feature modular design, single-use equipment, and microcarrier cell-culture technologies.
In 2008, WuXi discontinued its US biologics manufacturing operations for a time and dedicated its already-existing Philadelphia, PA, facility to the company’s biologics testing, cell banking, and cell therapy services.
UPDATE: In a statement on Aug. 14, 2015, a day after the company's earnings call, WuXi PharmaTech announced it would go private and sell itself to a newly formed parent company called New WuXi Life Science Limited.
Source: Seeking Alpha (registration required)