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Major Biotechnology Plant Planned For Eastern Mass. Or Rhode Island

September 10, 1986

BOSTON (AP) _ Genetics Institute of Cambridge, a biotechnology firm, is joining forces with a British pharmaceuticals giant to build one of the world’s largest manufacturing plants for drugs developed through biotechnology.

The $30 million plant, which will be built in eastern Massachusetts or Rhode Island, will enable Genetics Institute to exploit the manufacturing know-how of Wellcome Foundation Ltd., whose U.S. subsidiary is Burroughs Wellcome Co., said Garen Bohlin, a Genetics Institute vice president.

At the same time, the joint venture will grant Wellcome access to the biotechnology expertise of Genetics Institute, he said Wednesday.

″There are a lot of (biotechnology-based) pharmaceuticals in the development stage,″ Bohlin said. ″(But) there are very few that have actually been taken up to commercial scale. It really gives us an edge.″

The plant will produce natural chemicals such as hormones. The process used usually involves removing human genes and splicing them into bacteria, yeast or cancer cells. These cells in turn will manufacture the desired chemical following the code that is contained in the gene.

The 100,000-square-foot plant, which will employ about 200 workers, will be run by WelGen Manufacturing, a separate company formed by the joint venture. The plant site will be selected within two months and the facility is expected to be completed by 1989.

Though Genetics Institute and Wellcome have jointly developed a drug, the plant will only engage in manufacturing, with the research and development of new drugs conducted separately by the two companies, Bohlin said.

In addition, Genetics Institute plans to produce at the plant products it has developed jointly with other pharmaceutical companies.

The only comparable U.S. manufacturing plant for biotechnology-based drugs is owned by Genentech Inc. of South San Francisco, Calif., Bohlin said.

Industry analysts said the joint venture should be a boost to Genetics Institute, which is considered well-managed but has not been ranked as one of the leading contenders in the nascent biotechnology industry.

″This puts them up a notch,″ said David Wheat, a biotechnology consultant at the Arthur D. Little Co. in Cambridge.

But Gene Sacco, a biotechnology analyst at Arthur D. Little, said other qualities aside from production capability are needed to make a biotechnology company successful. ″I’m not so sure we can put them up with Genentech,″ he said.

Burroughs Wellcome plans to manufacture all its biotechnology products at the plant, including TPA, which dissolves blood clots, and Wellferon, its brand of alpha interferon, which is believed to help in cancer treatment.

The joint venture requires approval of certain regulatory agencies. The federal government also regulates the manufacture of biotechnology products.

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