The Cambridge biotechnology giant Biogen Inc. plans to invest $1 billion in a new manufacturing plant in northern Switzerland that would triple the company’s global capacity to produce large protein-based drugs known as biologics.
The plan, which is subject to zoning approval by the Swiss government, could help reduce Biogen’s corporate tax rate to 23 percent from 26 percent, according to a note to investors by Robyn Karnauskas, a biotech analyst at Deutsche Bank.
Biogen spokeswoman Kate Niazi-Sai would not discuss the tax rate, but said, “there are economic benefits associated with this.”
The proposed site in Luterbach, Switzerland, near Zurich, would be Biogen’s fourth manufacturing plant. The company currently makes its portfolio of multiple sclerosis and hemophilia drugs in Cambridge, Research Triangle Park in North Carolina, and Hillerod, Denmark. Together, they house stainless steel tanks called bioreactors with a total capacity of 196,000 liters.
The plant in Cambridge, the company’s oldest and smallest, has a capacity of about 10,000 liters. It produces two interferon-based multiple sclerosis drugs, Avonex and Plegridy, as well as Eloctate, a hemophilia drug that won US regulatory approval last year.
“We’re preparing responsibly for future demand,” Niazi-Sai said of the proposed plant, which would create about 400 jobs. She noted that Biogen expects approval of experimental drugs in its pipeline and growth of its marketed drugs.
“We anticipate that it will increase our capacity significantly,” she said. “It’s part of a strategy to anticipate demand and to strengthen our drug-supply network in general.”
Niazi-Sai would not say which drugs Biogen plans to manufacture in Switzerland or specify the size of the plant. She said the plant will be the company's most productive, drawing on state-of-the-art biotech manufacturing technology.
Though the company has been based in Massachusetts for more than three decades, Biogen was founded in Geneva in 1978 and has deep roots in Switzerland. Its European headquarters are in the Swiss city of Zug, also near Zurich.
Daniel Bangser, a New York-based trade commissioner for the Switzerland Global Enterprise, a government agency for trade and investment, said Switzerland competed for the Biogen plant with other potential sites in Europe and the United States. Among the benefits of Switzerland, a European biopharma hub, is a skilled workforce and advanced infrastructure, he said.
“We’re always thrilled to see a large investment of this type,” Bangser said. “They don’t come along every day.”