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Cipla to launch biotech manufacturing facility in South Africa


Construction is scheduled to start in early 2017, with full operations expected to commence in the third quarter of 2018

Cipla’s has announced that its proposed biotech subsidiary in South Africa will invest just over Rs 1.3 billion into the country’s first biotech manufacturing facility, for the production of biosimilars. Cipla is the owner of Cipla Medpro and Cipla BioTec in South Africa.

Steven Lehrer, Director of Cipla BioTec said, “Biosimilars are important to enable access to advanced cancer and autoimmune treatments. These treatments are only used by about eight per cent of patients who should be treated worldwide mainly due to the high costs of these drugs. Biosimilars are as safe and effective as the original treatment and are starting to be introduced worldwide. However, biosimilars remain too expensive for broad use outside of major western markets. Cipla BioTec aspires to transform the biosimilars market worldwide, by significantly increasing access with its strategy of one global product standard at affordable pricing. Cipla BioTec’s unique manufacturing strategy is leveraged from its in house proprietary manufacturing software and single use technology.”

According to both Paul Miller, CEO, Cipla Medpro and Divian Govender, CEO, Cipla BioTec South Africa, the Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, is in South Africa on July 8, 2016 and Cipla BioTec has been invited to attend the Prime Minister’s keynote address. Prior to the event, a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between Cipla BioTec and Dube Tradeport Corporation will be signed.

Govender informed that the factory, which will be located in the Department of Trade and Industries Special Economic Zone of Dube Tradeport in Durban, will manufacture biosimilar drugs made from living organisms and used in the treatment of cancer and other diseases. Biosimilars are designed to have the same characteristics as an original biological agent. Construction is scheduled to start in early 2017, with full operations expected to commence in the third quarter of 2018.

Lehrer stated that, at full capacity, the facility is expected to create upto 300 jobs (upto 180 high skilled jobs and 120 indirect jobs), primarily in the engineering and biological science fields. “It marks the entrance of Cipla BioTec, into South Africa and will be run independently of the pharmaceutical’s existing manufacturing division, Cipla Medpro Manufacturing (CMM).”

Miller explained that in South Africa, people without access to private insurance have limited or no access to any biologic medicine due to the very high prices of the innovator molecules. Currently about one-in-50 patients in Africa have access to biologic medication. “We are striving to reduce this number to about one in five cancer patients through the production and supply of biosimilar medication at an affordable price. This embraces Cipla ethos of advancing healthcare for all.”

Subhanu Saxena, MD & Global CEO, Cipla said, Cipla’s investment in this facility will enable the creation of the first bio-cluster on the African continent. “A state-of-the-art, world-class manufacturing base here in South Africa will allow opportunities for supply chain partners and related companies to get involved. This in turn will allow top-notch research efforts to stay in South Africa and attract research from international institutions as well.”

The biotech manufacturing facility will have the necessary design capacity and capabilities and will seek regulatory approvals to supply the local market and to export into the rest of Africa and Europe.

“This investment follows the launch of the new distribution centre, Cipla Distribution Gateway in 2015, which saw a Rs 185-million investment into the country as well as a recent Rs 400-million upgrade to the existing manufacturing facility in KZN,” concluded Miller.

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