40 years of biomanufacturing history ending as Genentech shutters California plant

More than 260 jobs are to go as Genentech finally calls time on its legacy South San Francisco biomanufacturing facility.

Dan Stanton, Managing editor

March 27, 2023

3 Min Read
40 years of biomanufacturing history ending as Genentech shutters California plant
Image: Flickr/Chiara Coetzee

More than 260 jobs are to go as Genentech finally calls time on its legacy South San Francisco biomanufacturing facility.

Constructed in 1983, the South San Francisco facility began commercial manufacturing in 1985. But as part of a long-term biomanufacturing rehaul, Roche’s Genentech will close the site in the coming months.

“More than 15 years ago, we initiated a long-term strategy to evolve and modernize our manufacturing capabilities to meet the needs of patients in the future. We’re now in the final stages of delivering on that vision, which means we are closing our South San Francisco Production facility to exit commercial manufacturing in South San Francisco,” a Genentech spokesperson told BioProcess Insider.


Image: Flickr/Chiara Coetzee

“Doing so allows us to co-locate our clinical manufacturing capabilities with our R&D function in South San Francisco while shifting production of our commercial supply to other sites in our global manufacturing network. This process is already occurring in our recently opened Clinical Supply Center, which incorporates advanced technologies and an agile, modular design to speed the on-demand delivery of our investigational medicines to patients in clinical trials.”

The decision to close is not related to the current economic climate, which has seen major lay-offs across the tech sector, with the Bay Area being particularly badly hit.

In 2019, around 900 staff worked at the Genentech site, with the majority now having been offered other roles within the company, including in the Clinical Supply Center. For the 265 people affected by the closure, we were told full severance pay and financial benefits will be offered by the firm.

Production history

The South San Francisco site hosts cell culture production, protein purification, aseptic filling, product inspection operations and packaging, with a bioreactor capacity of 29,000 L. There are no fixed plans for the facility, but according to the firm it may leverage the building or land for other business purposes in the future.

“As the first production facility to make recombinant proteins at scale in our industry, the South San Francisco Production facility has an important place in the history of biotech and ultimately paved the way for the delivery of groundbreaking therapies that will serve patients well into the future,” the spokesperson said.

The site has produced a long list of Genentech/Roche drugs over the years, including: Activase (alteplase), Pulmozyme (dornase alfa), Rituxan (rituximab), Herceptin (trastuzumab), Xolair (omalizumab), Avastin (bevacizumab), Lucentis (ranibizumab), and Polivy (polatuzumab vedotin).

“For the past several years, we have moved commercial manufacturing to other sites in our global manufacturing network as we transitioned to commercial supply production in South San Francisco,” we were told.

“In addition, we have started construction of a new commercial manufacturing facility in Oceanside, California, which will be operational in early 2025. This new facility models the technology and design of the Clinical Supply Center, allowing us to significantly reduce the time needed to transfer production from one site to another.”

About the Author(s)

Dan Stanton

Managing editor

Journalist covering the international biopharmaceutical manufacturing and processing industries.

Founder and editor of Bioprocess Insider, a daily news offshoot of publication Bioprocess International, with expertise in the pharmaceutical and healthcare sectors, in particular, the following niches: CROs, CDMOs, M&A, IPOs, biotech, bioprocessing methods and equipment, drug delivery, regulatory affairs and business development.

From London, UK originally but currently based in Montpellier, France through a round-a-bout adventure that has seen me live and work in Leeds (UK), London, New Zealand, and China.

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