At Biopharmapark Dessau, a cluster of elite pharmaceutical and chemical companies collaborate to deliver medical technology excellence to the world
Tablets, capsules, you name it – in Saxony-Anhalt a network of R&D, manufacturing, and logistics companies ensures that medical products are available on the healthcare market. It’s not just aspirin production in Bitterfeld-Wolfen, but also medical products from Salutas in Barleben, and research activities at the Weinbergcampus Technology Park in Halle (Saale) – these are the state’s flagship endeavours.
A total of around 5,300 people are employed in the pharmaceutical industry in Saxony-Anhalt, with a total turnover in 2021 of just under €1.8bn. Most recently, the Covid-19 pandemic has placed the onus on companies and increased their development and growth with investments.
Vaccines have been developed and produced in the Dessau-Roßlau region since the 1920s. In the Biopharmapark Dessau – one of the twelve “Centres of Excellence” under the patronage of the Ministry of Economic Affairs of Saxony-Anhalt – several companies have taken root in a total area measuring 136 hectares since reunification. Research and production are closely intertwined there, which triggers innovative developments. The companies located here have attained a high level of expertise in pharmaceutical manufacturing and packaging, innovative vaccine technology, quality control and compliance, and R&D. At the Biopharmapark Dessau, companies benefit from many years’ experience alongside an existing production infrastructure. Furthermore, larger areas of up to 25 hectares are available to offer a developed environment.
The example of IDT Biologika shows clearly how the Covid-19 crisis led to growth. The contract manufacturer for viral vaccines – which emerged from traditional on-site vaccine production – was selected by the pharmaceutical group AstraZeneca as a strategic partner in Covid vaccine production in 2021. In total, IDT Biologika has embarked upon a nine-digit spending programme on capacity expansion, which includes the installation of as many as five 2,000-litre bioreactors. In the medium-term, several tens of millions of doses of AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine or other vaccines with similar manufacturing processes could be produced there. IDT Biologika will thus boast the largest capacity of its kind in Europe. The new facility is expected to be operationally ready by the end of February 2023.
Potential all around
Merz Group’s decision to locate to the Biopharmapark Dessau was also rooted in the on-site expertise, not to mention the mouth-watering options for expansion. Merz also benefits from its proximity to the science cities of Leipzig and Halle, Magdeburg and Berlin, with engineers, chemists, biologists, pharmacists and laboratory technicians on-hand from these catchment areas. Having started with just two employees in 2002, Merz now employs 200 people in the Biopharmapark, accounting for almost 50% of total group sales. At the anniversary celebration at the beginning of September, therefore, not only was the 20th anniversary of the company celebrated in the Biopharmapark Dessau, but moreover the major achievements that the company has been able to accomplish there. Over the past 20 years, the site has been continuously developed and expanded, with more than €70m invested to date. Based on the increased demand for Merz products, another €40m are currently being invested there to expand production capacity even further. In early December, the company held an opening ceremony for a major construction site for a new multi-purpose building that includes a warehouse and production support processes, entailing an essential component for the downstream process.
Nearby, in the Biopharmapark, we find Oncotec GmbH, which celebrated its 25th anniversary a week before Merz. Oncotec currently employs 310 people, with a turnover of over €44.5m euros through cancer and rheumatism drug sales. Oncotec does not market the products under its own name rather it operates a contract manufacturer for the parent company Medac along with other companies.
As a service provider, Oncotec encompasses everything from process development and regulatory support to production, quality control and packaging. Founded in 1995 as an RTD partner company, it took two years to start production with only 20 employees. Since then, €63m have been invested in the site, similarly with the support of the State of Saxony- Anhalt. Over the next three years, the company aims to invest another €50m in biotechnology and thus create 30 new jobs to shift production of the required active substances in-house.
Online in action
However, the Dessau location not only inspires large-scale producers, but digital pioneers for the pharmaceutical and chemical industry also: Change Work & World GmbH (CWW), is a startup from Dessau-Roßlau that strives to “shape the world of work, through the agile, digital and cross-company use of technical expertise in the pharmaceutical and chemical industry.” The company’s founders come from a pharmaceutical and chemical background meaning they are familiar with these sectors’ needs. The sectors’ strict regulations in terms of safety, approvals and inspections must overcome dynamic shifts to the economy, caused, for example, by a shortage of skilled workers, uncertain availability of materials and changing supply chains. CWW makes this happen. The company supports, among others, Merz Pharma Dessau on its way to establishing modern working conditions.
Founded in September 2020, CWW has since developed a digital platform for the pharmaceutical and life sciences industry that acts as a forum. Called CROWDBAG, it facilitates knowledge sharing, problem solving and helps bolster innovation.
The future is looking bright for the pharmaceutical industry in Saxony-Anhalt. No doubt challenges are apparent, as in many other industries, with a shortfall in skilled workers. But the challenges are being addressed: together with the Saxony- Anhalt Investment and Marketing Corporation, the twelve locations in Saxony-Anhalt have accordingly launched a campaign to recruit qualified employees and further foster the ground-breaking pharmaceutical and biotechnology sectors.