Economy & Economic Development  February 5, 2016

New dose of jobs from AstraZeneca

BOULDER — Good things are sometimes a long time in coming, and so it seems to be with the promised presence of AstraZeneca PLC, which at least partially could replace the loss of Amgen production in Boulder County last year.

The London-based pharmaceutical giant (NYSE: AZN) bought Amgen’s LakeCentre manufacturing facility in Boulder in September, and hopes were high here that the site eventually could employ as many as 400 people. That was seen as a welcome replacement to the more than 600 jobs lost to the county biopharmaceutical workforce by the closing of two Amgen facilities last year, said Clif Harald, executive director of the city of Boulder Economic Council.

“It was a big announcement when Amgen announced they were closing down their Colorado operations,” he said. “It was big for Longmont, big for Boulder and big for the state, as well.”

Meanwhile AstraZeneca, which has been through a tumultuous year itself, is keeping fairly mum about any progress in opening the Boulder facility. However the company still appears committed to reopening the plant in 2017 to create drugs going into the clinical trial pipeline.

“We have a small number of staff getting the plant ready, and we will bring on more people in 2017,” said spokeswoman Abigail Bozarth. “Once we have established which medicines will be manufactured at this facility, we could have anywhere from 200 (to) 400 people.”


AstraZeneca

 CEO: Pascal Soriot

 No. local employees: Not available

 No. global employees: 57,500

 Revenue: $26.1 billion globally in 2014

 5550 Airport Blvd., Boulder CO 80301

 303-402-7400

 www.astrazeneca.com


AstraZeneca bought the Boulder facility for $14.6 million last fall, but still on the market is Amgen’s Longmont plant, currently marketed at $85 million. The massive 70-acre Longmont campus includes 692,000 square feet of building space, while the Boulder facility, at 5550 Airport Blvd., sits on 20.4 acres and includes roughly 170,000 square feet of building space. Harald was not surprised that retrofitting the Boulder plant was taking time, given the new host of pharmaceutical substances to manufacture. He said economic-development experts across the state are hoping to hear news on the Longmont plant, but nothing is even rumored at this time.

Colorado’s pharmaceutical and biotechnical industry probably has absorbed much of the workforce, he said. However, AstraZeneca’s presence is being widely anticipated to both take up the remaining slack in these high-paying, highly technical positions and reaffirm Colorado’s “robust” presence in the international biopharmaceutical market.

“It is a very robust industry in Boulder County, the metro Denver area and Colorado as a whole,” Harald said. “We know that in Boulder County there are something like 67 pharmaceutical and biotechnical companies, employing about 1,300 people. That’s a significant number in our county” with an estimated 175,000 jobs.

However, AstraZeneca chief executive Pascal Soriot, who came aboard in 2012, appears to have a stick-to-your-guns, or stick-to-your-science, mentality, including fighting off a $118 acquisition offer by Pfizer last year. Soriot also appeared to have a strong commitment to the drugs in the pipeline and testing, rescuing an ovarian cancer therapy called olaparib from the bean counters’ scrap bin right after taking over the company — shortly after leaving a comfortable position high in the corporate structure of a more ensconced Roche Pharmaceuticals.

That resolve was reinforced by Soriot’s fight against the Pfizer takeover attempt; he claimed such a deal actually could cause deaths by delaying a lung cancer drug, Tagrisso, which ended up making it to market in near-record time.

During the last year, stock analysts have wavered over AstraZeneca’s position, with many pointing to a “patent cliff” for the company, with some of its biggest-selling drugs losing market exclusivity. One of those drugs is perhaps the company’s most visible pharmaceutical, Crestor, a popular cholesterol-lowering drug.

But the Pfizer takeover bid largely was based on the number of drug candidates that AstraZeneca has in its drug candidate pipeline, which apparently is growing in strength. One of those occurred on Jan. 28 when the Food and Drug Administration expedited consideration of a new AstraZeneca drug, Lynparza, as a “Breakthrough Therapy” for prostate cancer.

“More than 27,000 men died of prostate cancer last year in the U.S. alone. The Breakthrough Therapy designation for Lynparza is encouraging news for patients and their families, as there are currently very limited treatment options for metastatic Castration Resistant Prostate Cancer,” said a prepared statement by Antoine Yver, head of Oncology, Global Medicines Development at AstraZeneca. “We will work closely with the FDA to introduce Lynparza as a new treatment option as soon as possible.”

Accelerated introduction of drugs into the candidate pipeline also will speed hiring at the Boulder plant, Bozarth indicated.

“The Boulder site will increase manufacturing and production capacity and will eventually double the biologics manufacturing capacity in the U.S. to meet the needs of the maturing AstraZeneca pipeline,” she said. “Specifically, this facility will manufacture large quantities of drug substance. We will then ship the substance to other facilities to finalize preparation (i.e., fill vials) to get the medicines to patients.”

The Boulder facility investment appears to support an investment in new drugs to replace the depleting line of protected pharmaceuticals.

“The investment supports AstraZeneca’s evolving business shape with biologics making up 50 (percent) of our overall pipeline across our main therapy areas and an increasingly balanced portfolio across primary and specialty care,” she said. “Currently there are more than 120 biologics programs in our pipeline, including over 30 in clinical development. The new facility in Boulder adds to the expansion of AstraZeneca’s biologics manufacturing capabilities, following the planned biologics manufacturing investment in Sweden, announced in May, and the expansion in Frederick, Md., announced in November 2014.”

BOULDER — Good things are sometimes a long time in coming, and so it seems to be with the promised presence of AstraZeneca PLC, which at least partially could replace the loss of Amgen production in Boulder County last year.

The London-based pharmaceutical giant (NYSE: AZN) bought Amgen’s LakeCentre manufacturing facility in Boulder in September, and hopes were high here that the site eventually could employ as many as 400 people. That was seen as a welcome replacement to the more than 600 jobs lost to the county biopharmaceutical workforce by the closing of two Amgen facilities…

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