TOKYO -- Fujifilm Holdings, developer of anti-flu treatment Avigan, will invest about 100 billion yen ($928 million) to ramp up production of biopharmaceuticals at its plant in Denmark, the company announced Tuesday, in response to increasing demand for medicines as therapeutic agents.
Toward that end, the Japanese company will double capacity of special cell culture tanks used for making drugs. It also plans to introduce a formulation and packaging facility to process them, thus building a system for integrated production.
Fujifilm will sequentially start operating the new biopharmaceutical production facilities at the Denmark plant by 2023. In the process of culturing cells, the raw materials for antibody drugs, six large tanks with a capacity of 20,000 liters will be newly installed. Fujifilm's overall manufacturing ability will double after it increases capacity at its Denmark and U.S. plants.
The global market for biopharmaceuticals is growing at about 8% annually, reaching about 27 trillion yen in 2018 as they are expected to show high therapeutic results with few side effects.
In addition to the prospect of new drug development, it is expected that some existing bio-drugs can be used to treat the coronavirus.
The coronavirus drug project launched by the foundation of Microsoft founder Bill Gates and others is working on the development of biopharmaceuticals, and Fujifilm has been contracted as a manufacturer.
Avigan is seen as a potential coronavirus treatment but a clinical trial that began in March and was supposed to conclude in June has been delayed at least until next month, meaning government approval in Japan will take more time. Evidence of its efficacy against the coronavirus has so far been lacking.
Meanwhile, the enormous cost of developing new drugs is pushing major pharmaceutical companies to sell their manufacturing units and rely on other companies for production.
Fujifilm has global market share of about 13% based on sales in its biopharmaceutical manufacturing business and is aiming to increase that to 20% with new capital investment as it pursues giant Swiss biotechnology company Lonza.
The company also plans to triple sales of its biopharmaceutical development and manufacturing business from the current level to more than 200 billion yen in fiscal year 2025.