WuXi’s ongoing capacity drive ups planned MA investment to $300m

WuXi Biologics is expanding bioreactor capacity at its site in Worcester, Massachusetts from 6,000 L to 24,000 L to support demand for biomanufacturing onshoring.

Plans for a first US facility were drawn up by China-headquartered contract development and manufacturing organization (CDMO) WuXi Biologics in 2018, with construction beginning in Worcester two years later.

But after winning planning approval from the local council last week, WuXi Biologics will expand the site, quadrupling bioreactor single-use capacity through an additional $235 million of investment.

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“We originally planned a 6,000 L facility with a $65 million investment,” WuXi Biologics’ CEO Chris Chen told BioProcess Insider. “To support onshoring initiatives and be closer to our customers in the US, we have upgraded the facilities to 24,000 L of capacity with approximately $300 million investment.”

The momentum to make biopharmaceuticals regionally has been reinforced by the COVID-19 pandemic highlighting supply chain concerns. Simultaneously, WuXi has seen the US as a key market, investing in another production site in New Jersey, along with laboratories in Philadelphia.

430,000 L and more

By the end of this year, WuXi Biologics estimates it will have 150,000 L of capacity operational across a global network that has been mushrooming over the past few years.

With a flurry of acquisitions and expansions in both drug substance (DS) and drug product (DP) capabilities since the start of 2021, the CDMO says it is on target to reach its target of 430,000 L in global capacity by 2024.

“We began the year with facility utilization close to 100%,” Chen said. “So we acted quickly and purchased seven DS/DP facilities. We are building an additional of six. So we will add 13 DS/DP facilities in 2021.”

On top of the Massachusetts expansion, some of the recent deals include adding a single-use biologics manufacturing plant in Hangzhou, China from Pfizer, a biologics manufacturing site in Suzhou, China from CMAB, and a facility in Wuppertal, Germany from Bayer.

Meanwhile, facility expansions in Leverkusen, Germany (leased last year from Bayer) and a vaccine/biologic plant construction in Ireland are well underway.

Bookings are well underway for the new facilities, Chen told us, with most of the demand come from global biologics – both COVID and non-COVID related – and with biopharma’s pipeline also expanding quickly he added WuXi “will continue to buy sites if they fit our needs.”

In the first half of 2021, the CDMO added 79 new molecule projects, totaling 408 ongoing programs, versus 334 in 2020. This includes 12 molecules that WuXi says were transferred by clients from their competitors.

For the first half, WuXi reported revenues of RMB 4,406.8 million ($680 million), up 127% year-on-year. However, future revenues based on bringing capacity online could be staggering, with a total backlog of $12.5 billion, up 32% from last year.