BMS Wraps Up Construction On Devens Plant

September 14, 2009 : Worcester Business Journal, by Eileen Kennedy

Bristol-Myers Squibb’s $750 million biologics manufacturing building at Devens, which has been three years in the making, is almost complete.

Once construction is complete, the facility will be outfitted with the necessary equipment and instruments, and initial testing of the manufacturing process will be up and running by December, said Joseph Tarnowski, the company’s senior vice president of biologics manufacturing and process development.

“First we have to prove that the equipment is working in the intended way, and then we’ll apply to the FDA for a biologics license,” he said. BMS will not apply for that license for another year, and approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is not expected until 2011.

Gradual Expansion

Once the facility is approved for commercial manufacturing, BMS will begin making a drug called Orencia at the facility.

Orencia, which is prescribed to treat arthritis, is becoming a popular drug. Its sales have risen by 40 percent this year over last year, from $106 million in the second quarter of 2008 to $148 million in the second quarter of 2009, according to the company.

While the building has been going up, the company has also decided that a second biologic called Belatacept will be made at the Devens plant if the drug is approved by the FDA.

Belatacept, which does not yet have a trade-name, is a biologic that prevents the rejection of solid organs.

“This is the first drug to prevent transplant rejection in probably 20 years,” Tarnowski said. “We’re really excited about it.”

The company has relied mainly on third-party manufacturers for its biologics, although a smaller Syracuse, N.Y., facility is also used to begin a biologic product line.

There are already 250 employees on board at Devens, and if the company continues to expand, the workforce could increase to 550.

The manufacturing building is only part of the complex the company is building. When the Devens facility is fully expanded, it will have seven buildings with almost 400,000 square feet of space, including the new 183,000-square-foot manufacturing plant. The company also plans to have its factory and office buildings certified through the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program.

News that the manufacturing plant is near completion is pleasing to Devens officials.

“This is what we've all been waiting for,” said Richard Montuori, MassDevelopment’s executive vice president of Devens operations and defense sector initiatives. “For us, the commonwealth needed these jobs, especially manufacturing jobs like these.”

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