April 10 (Reuters) - Amgen Inc will build a $165 million next-generation biopharmaceutical plant adjacent to its West Greenwich, Rhode Island manufacturing campus, the state governor's office told Reuters on Tuesday.
The plant will use Amgen's new flexible and reconfigurable technology, part of the company's ongoing efforts to control costs. Because it will be built next to an existing plant, it will cost a little more than half the $300 million estimated by the company in January. It will create 150 new manufacturing jobs, or half the 300 initially forecast.
Amgen, headquartered in Thousand Oaks, California, said in January it would locate the new plant in the United States, due in part to a lower effective tax rate stemming from U.S. tax reform. The company will also receive corporate tax incentives linked to job creation from Rhode Island, according to Governor Gina Raimondo.
"We continue to advance the state of technology in biologics manufacturing," Esteban Santos, head of operations at Amgen, told Reuters in an interview. He said key elements of the new lower-cost technology include processes that yield a larger number of cells to produce biologic drugs, a smaller footprint that emits less carbon and uses less water and electricity.
The new plant will also use diposable plastic containers, instead of the steel vats of a traditional plant, to grow cells, which eliminates the need for complicated piping and wiring, requires less labor and makes it easier to change product lines.
Construction time and operating costs for the next-generation technology are about half that of a traditional biotech manufacturing plant, according to Amgen.
Biotech drugs like Amgen's osteoporosis treatment Prolia are antibody proteins designed to interact with the body’s immune system to block the path of foreign, potentially damaging invaders. Drugs in this class, known as monoclonal antibodies, are produced from mammalian cells, often from hamsters, that are usually cultivated in large stainless steel vats.
The new plant, which will employ about 150 people, is modeled after Amgen's Singapore facility, which opened in 2014 and is also set up to allow for faster, more efficient production than traditional biologics plants with fixed bioreactors.
The existing Rhode Island plant employs about 625, according to Amgen.
Amgen's largest manufacturing plant is in Puerto Rico.
The company in January projected a 2018 adjusted tax rate of 14 percent to 15 percent and said it planned capital investments of about $3.5 billion over the next five years, with 75 percent in the United States. (Reporting By Deena Beasley; Editing by David Gregorio)