Roche: Improved biomanufacturing efficiency drove $1.2bn Vacaville sale

Higher yields, improved media, and perfusion are driving network optimization at Roche and led to the recent divestment of a 330,000 L California facility to CDMO Lonza.

Dan Stanton, Managing editor

April 26, 2024

2 Min Read

Contract development manufacturing organization (CDMO) Lonza snapped up Roche’s site in Vacaville, California last month for $1.2 billion. The legacy Genentech facilities, which once produced monoclonal antibody (mAb) blockbusters including Herceptin (trastuzumab), Avastin (bevacizumab), and Rituxan (rituximab), has a total bioreactor capacity of approximately 330,000 L, making it one of the biggest biologics manufacturing sites in the world.

Despite the sale, Roche CEO Thomas Schinecker told investors on its Q1 financial call the divestment is a direct consequence of “ongoing efficiency gains for biologics manufacturing.”

Specifically, he referenced how bioprocess productivity has skyrocketed over the past decade, with average titers going from 1.5 g/L pre-2015 to a projected 4.8 g/L in the coming few years. This, coupled with a portfolio shift to smaller volume products, equates to a significant decrease in numbers of manufacturing runs needed: from an average demand of 87 runs pre-2015 to 31 runs.

“In total, we have about five times higher productivity. And with that, we don't need as many manufacturing sites as we've had in the past to produce even more products. In addition, we have a portfolio shift to smaller volumes because of higher potency NMEs [New Molecular Entities]. So with that, we can optimize our manufacturing network going forward.”

Schinecker added the sale also formed part of Roche’s plans to optimize its geographical footprint, with facilities located closer to its end markets in the US, Europe, and Asia. “In total, we now have 11 manufacturing sites with over 530,000 liters of biological manufacturing capacity online. And with that, we still have the largest [non-CDMO] manufacturing capacity in the industry.” In 2018, Roche/Genentech’s capacity stood at 985,000 L worldwide.

For the first quarter 2024, Roche reported pharma sales of CHF 10.9 billion, down 6% year-on-year. Excluding the drop in sales of COVID-19 medicine Ronapreve (casirivimab/imdevimab) and currency effects, revenue was up 7%.

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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