Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Genentech launches major Vacaville expansion

Genentech launches major Vacaville expansion

By Brad Stanhope
 October 16, 2013 |

VACAVILLE — Genentech is expanding in Vacaville.

The company will spend more than $285 million over the next four years to expand two manufacturing facilities, including Vacaville. It will make the Vacaville plant the largest biotech manufacturing facility in the world.

The company announced the expansion in a press release Sunday night. It will add about 200 new jobs in Vacaville and 50 in Oceanside. Vacaville’s plant currently employs about 400 people.

Robin Snyder, the director of corporate communications for Genentech, said the expansion should start in June 2014 and will be finished by the end of the first quarter of 2016.

“Genentech is the No. 1 maker of cancer medicines in the world and we continue to deliver on our pipeline of first-in-class and best-in-class medicines,” Snyder wrote in an email to the Daily Republic. “We have received FDA approval of five new medicines in the past three years.”

Sandy Person, president of the Solano Economic Development Corp, called the announcement great news for the county and Vacaville.

“Genentech has long been one of Solano County’s premier life science companies,” she said. “Its growth is an important piece to our economy and our life science cluster.”

“We’ve definitely turned the corner on the economy,” Person said. “The Great Recession was painful and it lasted too long.”

The company is a member of the Solano Economic Development Corp., Person said.

“We’ve been working with Genentech to provide any resources we could,” she said.

The new positions will range from technicians to scientists and engineers, according to the Genentech press release.

“California has always had an impressive skilled workforce that has allowed Genentech to hire diverse and talented individuals in various disciplines,” said Ian Clark, Genentech’s chief executive officer, in the press release.

Snyder said that the decision to expand now was due to a growing demand for Genentech’s products.

“As a network, we’ve been operating at maximum capacity,” Snyder wrote. “These investments will allow us to ensure reliable supply of or currently marketed medicines, as well as to deliver on our industry-leading pipeline.”

The news is particularly good in that it comes less than a week after Merck, a pharmaceutical rival, announced plans to lay off 8,500 employees and cut $2.5 billion in costs over the next two years.

It’s the second bit of good news for Vacaville in a week – after Thursday’s announcement that Kaiser Permanente Vacaville Medical Center received approval to become Solano County’s lone Level II trauma center.

Genentech has three locations in California – Vacaville, South San Francisco and Oceanside – and one in Hillsboro, Ore. There are about 10,000 Genentech employees in California, with 3,000 of them manufacturing jobs.

The California facilities produce medicines for a range of diseases including cancer, rheumatoid arthritis and asthma.

Biologic medicines are among those manufactured in Vacaville. Biologic medicines are large molecules that are created by biological processes, rather than being chemically synthesized, according to the press release. They are typically administered via injection or intravenously.

Genentech is a member of the Roche Group. It was founded more than 35 years ago and its Vacaville plant became fully functional in 1999.

Person of the Solano Economic Development Corp. said life science got a lot of its start in the San Francisco Bay Area in part because of the University of California, Berkeley, Stanford University, the University of California, San Francisco and the University of California, Davis.

Taking a biotech drug to market requires infrastructure for manufacturing and Solano County has the needed workforce, water and land, Person said.

“We kind of sit at the center of the Northern California megaregion,” she said.

Genentech company headquarters are in South San Francisco. Its website is www.gene.com.

Ryan McCarthy contributed to this report. Reach Brad Stanhope at 427-6958 or bstanhope@dailyrepublic.net. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/bradstanhope.