Training and ‘sea turtles’ support WuXi Biologics’ growing China footprint

WuXi Biologics talks Chinese talent recruitment as it begins building an eighth biomanufacturing facility in the country, this one with 48,000 L of single-use bioreactor capacity.

The latest addition to contract development and manufacturing organization (CDMO) WuXi Biologics’ bioproduction network is a 1.3 million square-foot center in Chengdu, Southwest China.

The facility will include drug development and commercial manufacturing capabilities and boast 48,000 L in bioreactor capacity. According to CEO Chris Chen, the capacity breaks down to 12 x 4,000 L single-use bioreactors.

Image: iStock/mj0007

While Chen did not disclose the equipment supplier at he new site, 4,000 L single-use systems are rare in the industry due to the pressure challenges from increased weight of the liquid medium in larger volume bags and 2,000 L is the standard zenith. However, ABEC is one company which offers disposable systems of such a size and WuXi Biologics already has a contract in place with the vendor for supply at at least one more of its manufacturing facilities.

Chen, who did not disclose the financial details of the new site when asked, has hinted capacity at the Chengdu facility could be increased in the future.

China’s got talent

This latest expansion means that once the new site is operational, WuXi Biologics will have gone from having 5,000 L of fed-batch and perfusion bioreactor capacity from a single facility in WuXi City, China to having over 270,000 L across a network comprising of twelve global production sites within a decade.

Including Chengdu, eight of these production sites are/will be in WuXi’s native China. A ‘Biologics Innovation Center’ in Fengxian, Shanghai is also under construction, but for now it does not include any manufacturing capacity.

Both the Chinese biologics and CDMO have opened up in the past couple of years through investment and changing regulations and. According to David Deere – founding chief commercial officer of PaizaBio, a firm helping Western companies access the Chinese market – “WuXi is probably the best integrated CDMO organization, domestically, and certainly has an aggressive strategic vision.”

However, he told Bioprocess Insider last year that its rapid rate of expansion in the country could leave the firm vulnerable to staffing issues. The shortage of bioprocess talent is hindering drug development in the West, and China, as an emerging market, is far from immune.

When put to WuXi on how it will staff its blossoming Chinese network, Chen said: “We believe China has a huge advantage in terms of talents. Our unique training mode by combining outstanding graduates with returnees who have abundant expertise will promote the rapid growth of talents.”

People who have returned home to China after having studied abroad for several years have been described as “sea turtles” or 海归 and according to Forbes they have long been prized by Chinese companies for their expertise.

Read more:

WuXi Biologics: Zero to 220,000L of Capacity in 10 Years

WuXi building twelfth plant as biologics contracts ramp up

Coming to America: WuXi Biologics Expands Again