Astra Picks Ireland to Build New Factory in Blow to U.K.
AstraZeneca Plc will invest $360 million building a new manufacturing facility for small molecules in Dublin, dashing U.K. hopes that the drugmaker would develop the site at home.
The plant will ensure that Astra’s global supply network can meet the needs of its pipeline of new medicines, the company said in a statement on Tuesday. The facility will create 100 highly skilled jobs in the life sciences sector, offering a boost to the local economy.
The new site will add capacity to manufacture ingredients for a wide range of medicines, cutting costs and introducing more sustainable manufacturing processes, Astra said. Small molecules are the mainstay of pharmaceutical drugs and lately have been used in new ways to help target cancer in treatments such as the company’s Enhertu.
The deal will “nurture the country’s life sciences sector and allow for the development of high value-added medicines,” according to Chief Executive Officer Pascal Soriot.
Earlier this week Astra said that Enhertu, which combines a small molecule with an antibody, reduced the risk of breast-cancer disease progression or death by 72% compared with Roche Holding AG’s Kadcyla -- another antibody-drug conjugate.
The new Astra facility will be located at the 41-acre Alexion campus in College Park, Dublin. The announcement comes only a few days after the U.K. government said it would rely on vaccines from Pfizer Inc. and Moderna Inc. for its Covid-19 booster program, sidelining the homegrown shot from Astra.
While the company was one of the first drugmakers to help develop a Covid vaccine, it has grappled with safety concerns over potential side effects such as blood clotting. A deputy spokesman to Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Tuesday said the shot had been “enormously important throughout the course of the pandemic.”
Astra’s choice of Dublin follows the completion of the $39 billion takeover of Alexion, a specialist in rare diseases, earlier this year.
“The decision to choose Ireland was strengthened by our recent acquisition of Alexion, which has its global headquarters in Ireland and has established a significant presence outside Dublin, with many of the elements needed for the creation of this next-generation manufacturing site already in place,” a spokesman said.
It also is the outcome of months of negotiations with the Irish government, which has worked to turn the country, a low-tax haven for corporations, into a world hub for life sciences.
News that Astra has picked Ireland will be a blow to the U.K. post-Brexit, although the pharma giant did plow 380 million pounds ($519 million) into creating a new manufacturing and packing facility for its oncology medicine Zoladex in Macclesfield, in the north of England earlier this year.
Johnson visited the Macclesfield campus, which employs more than 3,000 people, in April and said it would help propel the country’s ambitions to become a “global life-science superpower.”
The Astra spokesman said investment decisions relating to large manufacturing sites are taken over months, cover a wide range of considerations and require board approval. The company has 26 manufacturing facilities in 16 countries to supply patients around the world with medicines such as Farxiga for diabetes.
Astra shares were little changed in London, trading at 8,610 pence.
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