Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Meeting Demands

Meeting Demands
Project Makes Room for Fight Against Cancers
By Amanda Janis/Business Editor

· Construction continues at Genentech. The $600 million expansion will make its Vacaville site...

The trailers ringing Genentech's Vacaville facility are no ordinary offices on wheels.

A walk through the portables - inhabited by firms hard at work on the biotechnology company's $600 million expansion - reveals full-scale, fully-functioning workplaces. Flat-screen computers and family photos dot desks in row upon row of cubicles, framed art graces corridors, and project managers confer with executives and employees behind the doors of their window offices.

The permanence of these temporary offices is less surprising when you realize more than 1,200 construction workers are on-site each day, working on a high-precision project that broke ground two-and-a-half years ago.

Dubbed "Cell Culture Production 2," or CCP2, the expansion project will more than double Genentech's existing 427,000 square foot facilities in the Vaca Valley Business Park. Three new manufacturing buildings, totaling 380,000 square feet, along with a 135,000 square foot administration building will be added to the 97-acre parcel Genentech purchased in 1994, making it the largest biotech facility of its kind worldwide.

Demand for its blockbuster products is the driving force behind the expansion, explained Frank A. Jackson, the vice-president and general manager of Genentech's Vacaville operations.

That demand, Jackson said, "is stimulated by the great results we've had for Avastin, great results for Rituxan, and also Herceptin for metastatic breast cancer. Those are all products that we make here."

(Rituxan has won numerous Food and Drug Administration approvals for treatment of various types of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, and was recently approved to treat rheumatoid arthritis. Avastin has been approved as treatment for colon and rectal cancer patients, and may win even wider approval; applications have been submitted to the FDA for its use in treating some forms of breast cancer and lung cancer, and it is currently being studied in 130 clinical trials for patients with 25 different types of cancer.)

"The growth of those products is driving demand for additional manufacturing capacity from Genentech, and Vacaville's role is to be a significant supplier," Jackson said.

It's also likely that Vacaville will play a role in supplying future drugs developed by the biotech firm.

"Genentech has about 40 products in clinical development right now - about 25 in late stage development - so many of those will very likely come to the Vacaville facility," Jackson said.

The current expansion will enable the Vacaville facility to manufacture future products, he noted.

"We're adding 200,000 liters of capacity," he said. "At the moment we have 144,000 liters, so it's a really significant amount of additional capacity. We don't expect to use that all on day one, so it'll be a gradual ramp up of utilization throughout the years after it licenses."

The facility is expected to be finished next year and licensed to manufacture products in the latter part of 2009, he said, at which time Genentech will need to hire additional employees.

Already, it's begun increasing staff levels in preparation, Jackson said. At the end of 2004, the year the expansion broke ground, there were 685 Vacaville employees.

"Currently there are about 800 employees," he said, "and when the new plant is finished and fully operating there'll probably be about 1,200 employees."

The expansion and the facility's potential is, indeed, exciting, Jackson said.

But, he noted, "For me and for all of us here, the exciting thing is what we do everyday, which is making products for the patients.

"These are difficult diseases to treat," he said. "I think every employee at Genentech has a connection with what we're doing, which is meeting unmet medical needs in these very critical indications."

Amanda Janis can be reached at business@thereporter.com.

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