The German group installed near the Oncopole, on the Curie Campus in Toulouse, will build from 2022 a plant for organic drugs to treat Covid in 2024 or 2025. A production of monoclonal antibodies that can also be used in other therapeutic areas. Pierre Cooremans, CEO of Evotec-France responds to La Dépêche du Midi.
Pierre Cooremans is the Managing Director of Evotec-France, the French subsidiary of the German pharmaceutical research and development group located on the Curie campus, near the Oncopole (on the former Sanofi site). Nearly 800 people work at the Toulouse site, the group’s European research and development center, which employs 4,000 people and is listed on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange. The company Just-Evotec biologics Eu was created in February 2021, with its headquarters in Toulouse at 195, route d’Espagne, to create a factory for the commercial production of monoclonal antibodies, the first of its kind in Europe.
Is the project, announced at the beginning of the year for a launch before the end of 2021, confirmed? When will work on this factory begin?
This project is confirmed. We are in the engineering work phase on the industrial infrastructure and on the building. We work with several engineering firms and with a Toulouse architectural firm. The building permit should be filed by the second half of January 2022. We have already built a similar factory in Redmond, Washington State in the United States, inaugurated in late August, but the architectural envelope of the Toulouse plant will be different, because it responds to local specificities.
In the United States, do you already produce an anti-Covid treatment?
The products are in development, there is a whole validation process, but we have already signed contracts to produce monoclonal antibodies for the treatment of Covid with the US Department of Defense and other contracts with the Merck laboratory. We do not directly produce the drug on the market, but its active ingredient.
In Toulouse, your factory for the European market?
Yes, for the European and even global market. The production of monoclonal antibodies can relate to other therapeutic areas such as oncology or stimulation of the immune system. We also have agreements with Oncopole for patient samples and a clinical study.
How will this Toulouse production unit look?
The factory, with an area of between 14,000 and 15,000 m2, will initially have two production lines and employ 150 people, but eventually it will have six production lines and 250 employees. There will be two types of activity: manufacturing or production, of a part, but also the design and development of products and processes. The work is planned over eighteen months: 9 months for the construction of the building, 12 months for the equipment, 18 months if we include the validation process. It’s a very controlled environment. The production of biologic drugs uses highly regulated advanced technologies which must be validated by the administration. The opening is scheduled for 2024-2025 but there will first be a whole recruitment period and several months of training for highly specialized personnel who will work on this site.
Are you not afraid of arriving late for Covid treatments, excluding vaccines?
In the meantime, other products may appear. It is a joint commitment with the French government which has chosen to support us. At the time he did so, there was no treatment. We will only manufacture the active principle, other companies will shape it, mainly in injectable form.
Is this factory a big investment?
Yes, over 150 million euros. We are expecting 50 million in subsidies or reimbursable advances from the State, the Region and Toulouse Métropole. Evotec also just returned to Nasdac last week, which raised several hundred million dollars.
How to explain simply the innovation represented by this type of drug compared to the more traditional production?
It is about producing drugs from cells, from living things, which are made to produce antibodies, and no longer drugs from synthetic chemistry. Our continuous, high-yield production technology is unique. Biomedicines are more and more numerous, and they are the drugs of the future.