AGC Biologics to exit Berkeley CA plant by end of year

AGC Biologics is undertaking major expansions at sites in Seattle, Denmark and Japan, but the plant in Berkeley no longer fits with the CDMO’s growth strategy.

The Berkeley, California clinical biomanufacturing plant will play no further part in the firm’s future, AGC Biologics management told Bioprocess Insider, and will be shut by the end of the year.

“Berkeley was no longer the right fit for AGC Biologics,” said CEO Patricio Massera, and so the lease will not be extended into 2020. He added that the approximate 20 staff affected have been informed and either offered competitive packages or will be retained by the contract development and manufacturing organization (CDMO) in different functions.

The Berkeley site – acquired in 2012 – no longer fits with AGC Biologics’ future strategy. Image: GoogleStreetview

The plant has two mammalian cell culture production suites and a downstream suite, and uses a mixture of stainless steel (to a scale of 3,000 L) and single-use technologies.

CMC Biologics acquired the GMP manufacturing operations in 2012 from XOMA Corporation for an undisclosed fee.

Since then, AGC Asahi Glass acquired CMC Biologics (2016) and absorbed it into its AGC Biologics CDMO subsidiary. As recently as March 2018, the firm invested in expanding capabilities at the plant, adding a 2,000 L single-use bioreactor in one of the two production suites.

Growth and expansion

“The closure is not anything to do with restricting capacity as we have expansions ongoing and look to expand significantly further in the future as year-on-year growth continues to be high,” chief business officer Mark Womack told us. “[Berkeley] no longer fits into our growth plan.”

Massera and Womack added technologies and equipment from Berkeley will be transferred to AGC Bio’s facility in Bothell, Seattle, currently undergoing a major expansion.

The firm announced last year that it is adding twelve 2,000 L single-use bioreactors for mammalian manufacturing, effectively tripling capacity, and establishing a microbial production plant at the site in Washington state.

“Once complete, we’ll be the only CDMO with commercial mammalian and microbial manufacturing capabilities in the US,” Massera said.

Meanwhile, the CDMO announced last year expansion plans in both Europe and Japan.

In August 2018, the firm announced the addition of six 2,000 L single-use bioreactors at its site in Copenhagen, Denmark to be run in configuration, mirroring the set-up of the Bothell site.

A month later, the firm announced an investment in its facility in Chiba, Japan, adding a new mammalian single-use facility with bioreactors at the 500 and 2,000 L scale.