Cipla Limited today announced that its proposed biotech subsidiary in South Africa will invest just over R1.3 billion into the country’s first state-of-the-art biotech manufacturing facility, for the production of biosimilars.

Construction is scheduled to start in early 2017, with full operations expected to commence in the third quarter of 2018.

Cipla Limited is a global pharmaceutical company and owner of Cipla Medpro, South Africa’s third largest pharmaceutical manufacturer, as well as Cipla BioTec, a biotechnology company focused on affordable and accessible biopharmaceuticals.

According to both CEO of Cipla Medpro, Paul Miller, and CEO of the proposed entity Cipla BioTec South Africa, Divian Govender, the Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, is currently in South Africa and Cipla BioTec has been invited to attend the Prime Minister’s keynote address.

Prior to the address, a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between Cipla BioTec Pvt Ltd and Dube Tradeport Corporation will be signed. The MOU affirms Cipla BioTec’s and Dube Tradeport Corporation’s commitment to the investment and outlines terms of reference for the project.

According to Govender, the factory, which will be located in the Department of Trade and Industries Special Economic Zone of Dube Tradeport in Durban, will manufacture biosimilar drugs made from living organisms and used in the treatment of cancer and other diseases. Biosimilars are designed to have the same characteristics as an original biological agent.

“Biosimilars are important to enable access to advanced cancer and autoimmune treatments. These treatments are only used by about 8% of patients who should be treated worldwide mainly due to the high costs of these drugs. Biosimilars are as safe and effective as the original treatment and are starting to be introduced worldwide. However, biosimilars remain too expensive for broad use outside of major western markets,” said Director of Cipla BioTec, Steven Lehrer.

“Cipla BioTec aspires to transform the biosimilars market worldwide, by significantly increasing access with its strategy of one global product standard at affordable pricing. Cipla BioTec’s unique manufacturing strategy is leveraged from its in house proprietary manufacturing software and single use technology,” continued Lehrer.

According to Lehrer, at full capacity, the facility is expected to create up to 300 jobs (up to 180 high skilled jobs and 120 indirect jobs), primarily in the engineering and biological science fields.

“It marks the entrance of Cipla Limited subsidiary, Cipla BioTec, into South Africa and will be run independently of the pharmaceutical’s existing manufacturing division, Cipla Medpro Manufacturing (CMM),” said Lehrer.

According to Miller, in South Africa people without access to private insurance have limited or no access to any biologic medicine due to the very high prices of the innovator molecules.

“Currently about 1-in-50 patients in Africa has access to biologic medication. We are striving to reduce this number to about 1-in-5 cancer patients through the production and supply of biosimilar medication at an affordable price. This embraces Cipla’s ethos of advancing healthcare for all,” said Miller.

The biosimilars produced at the facility will be for both state and private sectors and there is also the potential to export to markets in the US, European Union and Asia, explained Miller.

“The capacity of this factory will have the potential for a vast majority of the products to be exported, thereby contributing significantly to the country’s economic growth and skill development,” said Miller.

“Our investment in this facility will enable the creation of the first Bio-cluster on the African continent. A state-of-the-art, world-class manufacturing base here in South Africa will allow opportunities for supply chain partners and related companies to get involved. This in turn will allow top-notch research efforts to stay in South Africa and attract research from international institutions as well,” said Global CEO at Cipla Limited, Subhanu Saxena, MD.

The biotech manufacturing facility will have the necessary design capacity and capabilities and will seek regulatory approvals to supply the local market and to export into the rest of Africa and Europe.

“This investment follows the launch of the new distribution centre, Cipla Distribution Gateway in 2015, which saw a R185-million investment into the country, as well as a recent R400-million upgrade to the existing manufacturing facility in KZN,” concluded Miller.

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