Location map of Geel pharmaceutical raw material plant in Belgium.
Galantamine (Reminyl structure).
Janssen's Alzheimer's drug Galantamine was originally isolated from daffodil bulbs.
Reminyl has been marketed since 2002.
Fentanyl administered as a transdermal patch.

Johnson & Johnson (J&J) subsidiary Janssen Pharmaceutica decided to build a new pharmaceutical plant in Geel in Belgium in 1998.

The site was chosen because it was located nearby many other sites in Europe and had access to high-quality personnel. The new plant functions as part of a complex of plants and pharmaceutical research facilities, which are in the company’s key production hubs in the EU.

Despite being a subsidiary, Janssen Pharmaceutica is a sizeable organisation in its own right, with more than 80 drugs to its name.

A total of 3,721 staff were employed by the company by the end of 1996, and in 2005 it employed 4,751 staff in the Beerse and Geel plants. Since opening, the Geel plant has been expanded many times to enhance its production capacity as it plays such a major role in the J&J pharmaceutical business.

Pharmaceutical raw materials

The Geel manufacturing facility focuses largely on the production of raw materials for pharmaceuticals. Of the total, 70% are supplied directly to its parent company J&J.

The close proximity of other J&J production sites, including those owned by Janssen Pharmaceutica, offer a ready market and considerable economies of scale. Strategically, the group benefits from a secure, close and cheap source of supply for its raw materials.

Construction and expansion 

The initial Geel project involved an investment of $28m. Construction at the site began in 1998 and was scheduled for completion at the end of 2000.

“In mid-July 2001, DHV was contracted by Janssen Pharmaceutica to install new site process sewers at its Geel plant.”

The plant entered full production in early 2001, and Janssen Pharmaceutica contracted DHV to engineer and construct two horizontal dryers as an extension to the Geel plant in July.

The multi-purpose drying machines in the class 100,000 facility consisted of two multi-purpose horizontal dryers of 2,000l capacity with associated vacuum units, cleanrooms and a utility building. DHV was also contracted to design, construct and validate the building; cleanrooms; heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC); process piping and instrumentation.

Environmental measures and sewer waste management

Janssen Pharmaceutica maintains a high degree of respect for the environment at every stage of production. Measures are taken to ensure that as many solvents as possible are recycled. Furthermore, all gas emissions are cleaned through a carbon filter and waste effluent is treated in ultra-modern water-treatment plants.

In mid-July 2001, DHV was contracted by Janssen Pharmaceutica to install new site process sewers at its Geel plant. DHV made a survey of the sewer waste flows and designed and constructed a custom system.

The new sewers were installed above ground for environmental reasons and easy maintenance. The plant sewer waste can be drained under gravity and the different plants are connected to the main header by frequency controlled pump units. The main header (length 350m) is self-draining and runs to the wastewater treatment plant using a new pipe rack (190m). The system is designed for a capacity of 80m³/h with a maximum of 160m³/h.

Small volume area powder unit

Many of the pharmaceutical ingredients produced at Geel can be hazardous and need to be handled correctly and safely during production.

The small volume area powder unit is a high containment facility, which was designed in 2001 for handling highly potent powders and is one of four separate production installations comprising the high containment production chain. The facility combines state-of-the-art milling installation and high-technology separation with the aid of glove boxes or isolators.

Engineering for the project was provided by Janssen Chemical Production Engineering. The unit has a floor area of 1,699.41ft² and required an investment of €5.9m to construct and fit out. The plant was finished by April 2002, validated by August 2003 and in full production by April 2004.

The plant produces raw materials for the production of fentanyl (Duragesic), buprenorphine, itraconazole and haloperidol. The facility was designed by Janssen Pharmaceutica Chemical Production Engineering and Central Engineering Department, and Foster Wheeler/BNS Engineering, while the equipment was supplied by SKAN, Hosokawa Alpine, AZO, Ensysta and Promatic B.

Galantamine hydrobromide

The company produces a compound called galantamine hydrobromide at its Geel plant. This ingredient is used for the treatment of Alzheimer’s and other neurological disorders.

The ingredient was validated for sale in Europe and the US by the European registration bureau and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2000. It has been on the market since 2002 under the name Reminyl.