One of the often-overlooked benefits of biosimilars is that it will drive innovation in manufacturing. Competition is the mother of invention.
Or, in the case of Amgen, reinvention. They’ve just launched a biologics manufacturing facility in Singapore that required one-quarter of the capital investment of a conventional operation, will operate one-third cheaper and took half the time to build.
(The plant will manufacture Prolia and Xgeva at a site that at 120,000 square feet is 80% smaller than a comparable conventional facility.)
When the company announced deep job and cost cuts in July, including at manufacturing facilities in Colorado and Washington, Amgen CEO Robert Bradway said that the company would be "exiting 20-year-old manufacturing technologies and continuing to invest in what we think are state-of-the-art, cutting-edge technologies that will enable us to rationalize and, we think, make product more reliably and more cost effectively.”
And, while there are yet many regulatory hurdles to leap, this is an excellent example of an innovator working to stay competitive in the age of biosimilars.
According to a report in Fierce Pharma, other drug makers, like GlaxoSmithKline are building plants utilizing the technology and Singapore appears to be the place to build them. GSK is working on a $50 million continuous manufacturing plant in Singapore that CEO Andrew Witty said will be 100 square meters instead of the usual 900 and so result in a "massive reduction in capital deployment" reducing costs by about 50%
As Eli Lilly & Co. CEO John Leichleiter said, "Creating and maintaining the conditions for innovation to flourish is challenging and complicated work - work that is never finished.”
But, the big question remains – will better and less costly manufacturing technologies (assuming they are approved by leading global regulators) lead to lower costs? More specifically, will it make off-patent biologics more price competitive with their biosimilar cousins?