Biogen announces billion-franc drugs plant

Biogen, an international biotechnology company, announced on Tuesday plans to invest one billion francs ($1.06 billion) for a new drug manufacturing plant in Luterbach in the canton of Solothurn.

Biogen announces billion-franc drugs plant
Aerial view of building site for Biogen plant. Photo: Canton of Solothurn

The company told a press conference with officials from the canton that work would begin on the plant at the end of this year with completion set for the end of 2018.

By 2019 the plant should be operational, creating 400 jobs and producing biopharmaceutical medicine, Biogen said.

The plant would be the fifth for the company in the world.

Founded in 1978 by a group of biologists in Geneva, the company has grown to employ 7,500 people with operations in 30 countries and annual revenues of $5 billion.

With corporate headquarters in Massachusetts and international headquarters in the canton of Zug, the company says it is committed to discovering, developing and delivering therapies to patients with neurodegenerative diseases, autoimmune disorders and hemophilia, according to its website.

Biogen said it has several new drugs in the pipeline that have created the need for additional production capacity.

“Thanks to excellent support from the canton of Solothurn, the municipality of Luterbach and the federal government, we have the opportunity to build the most advanced production facilities in the world,” Natascha Schill, CEO of Biogen Switzerland, said in a statement.

She said Solothurn “offers a business-friendly environment, reliable infrastructure, and access to well-trained labour.”

As well, Schill noted that Biogen already had its international headquarters in Switzerland.

“All these factors contribute to the fact that we want to expand our global production network in Luterbach.” 

The canton of Solothurn said a preliminary agreement had been signed with Biogen.

But it said a period of public consultation was needed, with a municipal meeting planned later this week to gather feedback.

Interpharma, the association of research-based pharmaceutical companies in Switzerland, welcomed Biogen’s announcement.

It is a clear sign of the “attractiveness of Switzerland” as a location for the pharmaceutical industry, Interpharma spokesman Thomas Cueni is quoted as saying by the Tages Anzeiger newspaper.


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Swiss-American antibody drug ‘effective at preventing Covid infection’

US biotech firm Regeneron and its Swiss partner Roche unveiled promising clinical trial results Monday indicating that an antibody treatment used to treat Covid-19 patients also helps prevent infections.

Swiss-American antibody drug 'effective at preventing Covid infection'
Photo: Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

The results of the Phase 3 trial showed that the combination of the antibodies casirivimab and imdevimab dramatically reduced the risk of symptomatic infection among people living with Covid-19 patients, Roche said in a statement.

The trial entailed injecting 1,505 people not infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus but living in households with people carrying the virus with the Regeneron antibody cocktail or a placebo.

READ MORE: Why are vaccination appointments still vacant in Zurich?

The trial, which was conducted in cooperation with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, showed that those who received the antibody cocktail saw their risk of symptomatic infection reduced by 81 percent, the companies said.

It also indicated that those treated with casirivimab and imdevimab who did experience symptomatic infection on average saw their symptoms clear within one week — far faster than the three-week average for those who received the placebo.

In a separate part of the study, 204 people who had recently tested positive for Covid-19 but showed no symptoms received either a dose of the antibody cocktail or a placebo.

Those who received the cocktail saw their risk of developing symptoms reduced by 31 percent compared to the placebo group, the companies said.

“Today’s data confirm the potential dual value of casirivimab and imdevimab to reduce household Covid-19 infections and to decrease the disease burden in those who do become infected, when given as a subcutaneous option,” Levi Garraway, Roche’s chief medical officer said in a statement.

“Although vaccinations are increasing globally, there remains a critical unmet need worldwide to prevent infections and provide immediate protection from Covid-19 between close contacts,” he said.

EXPLAINED: How Switzerland is speeding up its vaccination programme

Regeneron president and chief scientist George Yancopoulos agreed, pointing out that in the United States alone, 60,000 people are being diagnosed with Covid-19 every day.

The antibody cocktail “may help provide immediate protection to unvaccinated people who are exposed to the virus”, he said in a statement, adding that it could also potentially “provide ongoing protection for immunocompromised patients who may not respond well to vaccines”.

Regeneron said it would present the data to the US Food and Drug Administration and request it clear the Covid antibody cocktail for use as a preventative treatment.

The companies said they would share the new data with health regulators worldwide.