GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) announced that it has completed a $120 million expansion of its manufacturing site in the Philadelphia suburb of Upper Merion, PA, adding that the upgrade will enable it to accelerate the development of next-generation biologics.
GSK said the expansion will bring together its R&D and manufacturing teams into a single facility, with access to the same equipment, data, and analytics—as well as streamline its quality and commercial testing processes, and enhance the flexibility of the facility, which opened in 1996. Upper Merion includes bioreactors with single-use and disposable components, eliminating the need for retrofitting and sterilizing, as well as a new analytical lab.
The pharma giant did not disclose which products it will manufacture with the additional capacity, except to say it “will initially be producing key pipeline assets,” all of which are now in clinical trials.
“These investments will support and accelerate the transformation of our pipeline to deliver the next generation of medicines and vaccines for patients who need them,” GSK CEO Emma Walmsley said in a statement. “This also underscores GSK’s longstanding commitment to making innovative medicines and vaccines here in the U.S.”
Under Walmsley, who succeeded Sir Andrew Witty in 2017, GSK has overhauled its R&D operations, shedding dozens of pipeline candidates deemed unlikely to generate sufficient returns, and hiring Hal Barron, MD, as CSO and president, R&D, to oversee the revamped research and development effort.
While early-stage research is not constrained by therapy areas, with teams “actively encouraged to follow the science,” GSK says, programs that progress are aligned with GSK’s therapeutic areas of interest—which include oncology, HIV, infectious diseases and global health, immuno-inflammation, respiratory disorders, and vaccines.
GSK employs 350 at the Upper Merion manufacturing facility—part of a combined 3,500-member R&D and manufacturing workforce in Pennsylvania split between there and an R&D facility in Upper Providence, PA. The Upper Providence site is one of two major pharmaceutical R&D hubs for GSK globally, with the other one located in Stevenage, U.K.
GSK also employs more than 1,000 people at its U.S. corporate headquarters in Philadelphia, within the Navy Yard campus overseen by the city’s public-private economic development corporation PIDC.
The Upper Merion expansion is part of a $400 million company investment in U.S. manufacturing facilities that includes enhancements at its global vaccines U.S. R&D center in Rockville, MD, and its vaccine manufacturing facility in Hamilton, MT, Kirk Brown, GSK’s VP for biopharmaceuticals and sterile manufacturing, told The Philadelphia Inquirer.
In Hamilton, GSK has carried out a $100 million expansion that has increased the production capacity of key components of the adjuvant system used in several vaccines, including Shingrix (Zoster Vaccine – Recombinant, Adjuvanted), which was approved by the FDA in October 2017.
GSK employs about 15,000 people in the U.S., where it operates nine manufacturing facilities and multiple R&D centers.