Coventry Courier: Amgen breaks ground on biotech plant

Coventry Courier: Amgen breaks ground on biotech plant

By Kendra Port

WEST GREENWICH –– On Tuesday morning local and state officials gathered for the groundbreaking of Amgen’s new next-generation biomanufacturing facility in West Greenwich. The new plant, which will be built on Amgen’s existing 75-acre West Greenwich campus, will be the first next-generation biomanufacturing plant in the country.

The multinational biopharmaceutical company headquartered out of Thousand Oaks, California, plans to invest up to $200 million in the approximately 120,000 square foot plant, which is expected to create about 150 new highly-skilled manufacturing positions and three to four-hundred construction jobs.

The company has been behind some of the most ground breaking pharmaceuticals on the market, including a drug to prevent infections in chemotherapy patients as well as treatment for rheumatoid arthritis and autoimmune diseases. To date they are considered the world’s largest biotechnology company, creating substances for nearly 10 different medications. Their West Greenwich facility is primarily devoted to the production of the protein therapeutic ENBREL.

“We understand that serving patients is a privilege and it comes with a great deal of responsibility,” said Amgen Vice President Tia Bush. “Our nearly 600 staff members demonstrate their commitment each and every day to serve every patient every time. Amgen has transformed from a reliable supplier of a single product into an agile manufacturer of multiple products. Constructing this next-generation plant in Rhode Island further enhances our manufacturing capabilities within Amgen’s global operations network to deliver on our mission to serve patients.”

A next-generation biomanufactring plant, according to Bush, incorporates numerous innovative technologies into a single facility, allowing it to be built in half the construction time for about one half of the operating cost of a traditional plant. She said next-generation biomanufacutring plants require a smaller manufacturing footprint, thereby offering greater environmental benefits such as reduced consumption of water and energy and lower levels of carbon emissions.

The equipment within the plant will be portable and smaller than that of a traditional facility. Some components will also be disposable. Officials say this will eliminate the costly and complex retrofitting needs inherent in traditional plants.

“It will be 75 percent smaller, meaning it will have a significantly reduced environmental footprint,” said Amgen Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Robert Bradway. “We expect to invest more than $3.5 million in capital expenditures, with 75 percent of that taking place here in the United States.”

Bradway said Amgen is grateful for the incentives offered to them when negotiating a location for the new plant and said that Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo has been a supporter every step of the way.

“We’re committed to providing the state with an attractive return on that investment,” said Bradway. “This will create 150 new manufacturing jobs, and thanks to the growing life sciences community in this area we’re confident we can find the talent we need in Rhode Island today and in the future. This is an exciting time for our industry and company. We’re thrilled to be doing this important work in the state of Rhode Island.”

In her remarks Governor Gina Raimondo thanked Amgen for selecting Rhode Island for their new facility.

“The reality is we recognize that Amgen has options not just globally but within America,” said Raimondo. “There are 50 states, and you could have gone anywhere. Thank you for choosing Rhode Island.”

Raimondo said Rhode Island has “a long and rich history of innovation,” starting with jewelry manufacturing and now with biotechology.

“We are a state where you can make a living making things, and that’s why we as a state continue to invest in job training to make it easier for these manufactures to grow and retain people here,”” she said. “We want to grow with you and invest in the job training and technical programs that you need to hire the team that you need. It is my hope your investment here is just the beginning and we can build out.”

“It’s a great time for Amgen to be doubling down on Rhode Island,” Raimondo added. “Rhode Island really is on the move.”

Congressman James Langevin praised Amgen for what he called a “responsible environmental design.”

“The construction of this plant is important,” he said. “It will foster economic growth, and the medicines they produce provide hope and opportunities for people across the nation. This plant also represents a new frontier of new treatments and the promise of a future with reduced suffering from diseases.”

The existing Amgen plant in Rhode Island received a license from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in September of 2005 and is home to one of the world’s largest mammalian protein manufacturing sites. That facility currently produces commercial and clinical bulk drug substances.

More than $1.5 billion has been invested in the Rhode Island Amgen campus. The existing facility already employs 625 full time staff members in Rhode Island. The Amgen Foundation has committed more than $4.8 million to support science education and community programs in Rhode Island.

“We’re so excited about the momentum here,” said Rhode Island Secretary of Commerce Stefan Pryor. “Amgen is one of those great companies making Rhode Island a better place.

West Greenwich Town Administrator Kevin Breene also thanked Amgen for selecting West Greenwich for the new plant.

“I was a young town council President when the state put this industrial park together,” said Breene. “Now the longest standing tenant has been Amgen.”

Breene recalled being told last January that West Greenwich might be in the running for the new facility.

“We knew we were competing with other sites around the country,” he said. “There were times we didn’t think we’d get over the jump.”

Also present for the ceremony was Hopkins Hill Fire District Chief Frank Brown, who said although the propertty is technically in West Greenwich, the fire district has been covering Amgen since it opened.

“It’s a great day,” said Brown. “It’s good for the state and it’s good for the local community.”