Roche to spend $880m on manufacturing, creating 500 jobs

Expansion shows Roche’s confidence in its development pipeline of new cancer drugs

Swiss drugmaker Roche is to invest 800 million Swiss francs ($880) in its global manufacturing facilities over the next five years, creating 500 jobs, as it prepares for growing demand for its biologic medicines.

The world's largest maker of cancer drugs, which employs about 80,000 people in more than 100 countries, said yesterday the investment would increase its production capacity in Germany, Switzerland and in the US.

The expansion shows Roche’s confidence in its development pipeline of new cancer drugs and bucks a trend of cost-cutting by some big drugmakers in recent weeks in response to slowing sales growth.

Last week Israel-based Teva, the world's largest maker of generic drugs by sales, said it would cut 5,000 jobs, while Merck plans to slash annual operating costs by $2.5 billion and eliminate more than 10 per cent of its workforce.


Vontobel analyst Andrew Weiss said he was not surprised by the investment as manufacturing is a core competency of Roche and the company is at present the leanest drug company with only 15 manufacturing sites worldwide.

Many of Roche’s most promising medicines, such as rheumatoid arthritis treatment RoActemra and new breast cancer drugs Kadcyla and Perjeta are biologics, which unlike chemical drugs are proteins or cells derived from living organisms that are hard to replicate.

The Basel-based firm has also mostly been spared the pain so far of patent expiries ravaging rivals as many of its top-sellers are biologics which have not faced generic competition.

Roche, which is building a production facility in Basel to manufacture antibody-drug conjugates (ADCs) – also known as “armed antibodies” which can take drugs directly to cancer cells – has a further eight ADCs in clinical development and 16 in pre-clinical development. – (Reuters)