EXCLUSIVE: New Bay Area lab to speed up biologic drug manufacturing with less energy cost

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ByDavid Louie KGO logo
Saturday, August 20, 2022
EXCLUSIVE: New Bay Area lab to speed up biologic drug manufacturing
Genentech celebrates the opening of its new lab in South San Francisco, which will speed up biologic drug manufacturing with less energy cost.

SOUTH SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (KGO) -- As the demand for new drugs is growing, it's challenging the biotech industry to re-think its approach to making them for clinical trials. South San Francisco's Genentech opened a new lab today that, not only accelerates the process, but also saves water and energy.

Genentech persevered through two years of construction with pandemic-related delays. It now celebrates the opening of a new $250 million lab facility that it promises is going to speed up the development of new biologics. This ribbon cutting ushers in a new era in which smaller batches of drugs can be made on demand.

"We're making medicines that are targeted to individual patients' needs and that allow us to make just the right amount of medicine for the patient when they need it, exactly at the time they need it," said Jeff Davis, executive director of the Clinical Supply Center.

A modular approach will allow multiple drugs to be made simultaneously. But this is more than making so-called "designer drugs."

This lab will use 25% less water and 28% less energy, compared to existing labs that have to be sterilized between production runs.

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"We're eliminating the need to pump many, many gallons and cubic meters of steam into that stainless steel system and then flush it with very strong chemicals," Davis said.

The facility also will recycle or reprocess plastics so they don't go to landfill. This lab will become a model as Genentech and its parent, Roche, envision expanding small batch production in the future. It's innovation, such as this, that will benefit from the renewal of the state's research and development tax credit.

"It helps to draw innovators to our state, and it helps to keep innovators in our state," said California Lt. Governor Eleni Kounalakis. She was part of a contingent of local and state elected leaders who toured the lab Friday morning.

For a company that 45 years ago was a biotech pioneer, Genentech today is showing that agility is still part of its DNA.

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