Cipla invests R1.3bn in new biotech factory

Cipla’s SA biotech subsidiary will invest R1.3 billion into a new factory in KwaZulu-Natal to produce biosimilars.
The investment was announced in a statement issued on Friday and notes that the money will go into SA’s “first state-of-the-art biotech manufacturing facility”.
India-based Cipla is a global pharmaceutical company, which owns Cipla Medpro, South Africa’s third largest pharmaceutical manufacturer, as well as Cipla BioTec, a biotechnology company focused on affordable and accessible biopharmaceuticals.
Divian Govender, CEO of the proposed entity Cipla BioTec South Africa, says the factory will be located in the Department of Trade and Industries’ Special Economic Zone of Dube Tradeport in Durban.
It will manufacture biosimilar drugs made from living organisms and used in the treatment of cancer and other diseases. Biosimilars are designed to have the same characteristics as an original biological agent.
Construction is scheduled to start in early 2017, with full operations expected to commence in the third quarter of 2018.
Steven Lehrer, Cipla BioTec director of explains, “Biosimilars are important to enable access to advanced cancer and autoimmune treatments. These treatments are only used by about 8 percent of patients who should be treated worldwide mainly due to the high costs of these drugs.
“Biosimilars are as safe and effective as the original treatment and are starting to be introduced worldwide. However, biosimilars remain too expensive for broad use outside of major western markets.”
He notes the company wants to increase access to these treatments by making them more affordable.
At full capacity, the facility is expected to create up to 300 jobs (up to 180 high skilled jobs and 120 indirect jobs), primarily in the engineering and biological science fields.
The biosimilars produced at the facility will be for both state and private sectors and there is also the potential to export to markets in the US, European Union and Asia.
The biotech manufacturing facility will have the necessary design capacity and capabilities and will seek regulatory approvals to supply the local market and to export into the rest of Africa and Europe.
Cipla’s investment follows the launch of the new distribution centre, Cipla Distribution Gateway in 2015, which saw a R185 million investment into the country, as well as a recent R400 million upgrade to the existing manufacturing facility in KZN.

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