Novartis Increases China Commitment: Opens Suzhou Plant, Technical R&D Center

| About: Novartis AG (NVS)
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In November, Novartis (NYSE: NVS) held the official opening of Suzhou Novartis Pharma Technology Co., the company’s new $250 million center devoted to technical R&D as well as manufacturing of APIs and intermediates. Novartis says the facility is a “complement” to its existing global network of technical R&D and production sites.

The newest addition to Novartis’ China facilities is located 80 km northwest of Shanghai in Jiangsu Province inside the Changshu Economic Development Zone. Novartis started construction of the facility in February 2006 and expects to begin using APIs and intermediates from it in 2010. Suzhou Novartis currently employs 340 staff.

Novartis said the Changsu site was chosen because of government support and a good talent pool.

The facility will synthesize small amounts of Novartis developmental APIs in its laboratories to support early-phase pre-clinical development activities (toxicology and formulation development work) in other Novartis sites in Europe and US. Another part of its goals will be to optimize manufacturing technology of products, increasing production quality and quantity.

The plant will concentrate on producing Novartis drugs in the areas of hypertension (Rasilez/Tekturna, Esidrex), hepatitis B (Sebivo) and oncology (Glivec), all of which have a high incidence in China. It will also examine and manufacture chemicals used in drugs for leukemia, epilepsy and other diseases.

The R&D facility is 10,801m² in size. It consists of a 4,815m² pilot plant, plus labs, kilo labs and a safety lab spread over the remaining 5,986m². The site also houses three additional production buildings, each with an area of 9,682m².

Novartis is heavily committed to increasing its presence in China. Last month, the company announced it would spend $1 billion over the next five years on an R&D center in Shanghai (see story). Besides the desire to take advantage of China’s R&D opportunities, Novartis aims to make China one of its top three markets in the world.

Disclosure: none.