Bayer puts up $150M to build West Coast cell culture facility

Bayer considered eight locations around the world before deciding on Berkeley, California. (Bayer)

Bayer is investing $150 million to build a cell culture facility in California. The 40,000-square-foot site will support Bayer’s pipeline of oncology and cardiology programs when it comes online late in 2021.

Germany’s Bayer is building the facility on its West Coast Berkeley campus, which currently houses a recombinant factor VIII production plant that makes hemophilia A treatments. The Bayer Berkeley plant dates back to the 1970s and underwent a $100 million expansion in 2017 but was the subject of job cuts last year ahead of the planned transfer of Kovaltry production to Germany.

The cell culture investment affirms Bayer’s commitment to Berkeley, where it employs about 1,100 people. Bayer considered eight locations around the world before deciding on Berkeley, in large part due to the biotech talent pool in the area, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

Housing the facility in Berkeley also puts Bayer in close proximity to biotech companies. Bayer tilted its R&D strategy toward external innovation recently and expects the cell culture facility to support development of insourced assets when it begins clinical production toward the end of 2021. Bayer cited oncology and cardiology among the main therapeutic areas the facility will support. 

The goal is to accelerate the development of assets against these diseases in part by deploying new technologies. 

“Bayer's Cell Center Technology Center will combine automation, digital capabilities and single-use bioprocessing technologies to streamline production to allow us to bring new medicines to patients faster," Judy Chou, global head of Bayer Biotech, said in a statement.

Chou and her colleagues have turned to third parties for some of the expertise and technologies needed to deliver that vision. Bayer has enlisted Fluor to handle design and construction tasks and tasked GE Healthcare with bringing its single-use FlexFactory bioprocessing platform to the plant.