AstraZeneca unveils plan for $1.5bn ADC plant in Singapore

AZ in Singapore
Mike Enerio

AstraZeneca is backing up its considerable investment in antibody-drug conjugates (ADCs) for cancer with the construction of a $1.5 billion new facility in Singapore to manufacture them.

It will be the first ADC facility at the pharma group that will be able to make ADCs from start to finish – from antibody production to filling the finished ADC – and is scheduled to open in 2029, according to a statement published this morning. The greenfield project is receiving unspecified support from the Singapore Economic Development Board (SEDB).

Chief executive Pascal Soriot said the plant will help AZ achieve its ambition to position ADCs as a replacement for traditional chemotherapies across many different types of cancer.

He added that Singapore is “one of the world’s most attractive countries for investment, given its reputation for excellence in complex manufacturing.” In 2022, Singapore’s biopharma sector produced more than $14 billion worth of products for global markets.

AZ’s investment comes as the company is seeing strong sales of HER2-targeted ADC Enhertu (trastuzumab deruxtecan) – which more than doubled from $1.2 billion to almost $2.6 billion last year – thanks to approvals in new indications, including HER2-low breast cancer and HER2-mutant non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).

It is licensed from Daiichi Sankyo, which also gave AZ another TROP2-targeting ADC – datopotamab deruxtecan (Dato-DXd) – currently under review by the FDA as a treatment for non-squamous NSCLC, with a decision due before the end of the year.

AZ, meanwhile, has a growing portfolio of in-house ADCs in development, including six in clinical trials led by B7-H4- and Claudin18.2-targeting candidates for solid tumours, which are in mid-stage testing.

The company has been notable among big pharma groups for its efforts to move towards sustainable manufacturing and carbon-neutral operations and has pledged that the new Singapore facility will emit zero carbon from the first day it opens.

That ties in with AZ's commitment to being a carbon-negative organisation by 2030, helped by initiatives such as a recent $400 million tree-planting drive to fight deforestation.

The Singapore plant news comes after AZ announced plans to build a brand new $360 million manufacturing facility in Ireland last year, saying the environment in the UK – its home market – was becoming less conducive to that sort of investment.

Earlier this year, however, AZ said it was preparing a £650 million investment in an expansion of its vaccines manufacturing facility in Speke, near Liverpool, and a new facility at its R&D headquarters in Cambridge, in what the government said was a “vote of confidence” in the UK. The announcements followed earlier reports that AZ was in line for a significant financial aid package to support the projects.

Photo by Mike Enerio on Unsplash