In 1998, Glaxo Wellcome made an investment in a production facility in Suzhou in the eastern Chinese province of Jiangsu.
The plant was designed to produce anti-infective drugs, including a treatment for Hepatitis B.
Now called GlaxoSmithKline, Glaxo Wellcome is a research-based pharmaceutical company based in the UK.
Treatment for Hepatitis B
Glaxo Wellcome’s investment in the plant was geared especially for the Chinese market, which had one of the world’s largest communities of Hepatitis B sufferer, a potentially huge market of almost 120 million people.
The Chinese pharmaceutical market was adversely affected by poor enforcement of intellectual property (IP) legislation and many western products were subject to piracy. This situation saw many companies lose large amounts of money.
Glaxo’s hope that a comprehensive system of patent recognition and respect for IP rights was emerging was the main reason behind its decision to build a factory in China.
Glaxo was encouraged by the establishment of a legal framework to enforce the rights of patent holders and further heartened by a direct commitment given to the company by the Chinese Government, which promised patent protection within the next two to three years.
The project management and construction management contracts were awarded in 1998. The facility will be operational by the year 2001.
A contract to design a Glaxo Wellcome plant at Suzhou was awarded to Dewjoc in the UK. Kvaerner was contracted to provide project management, construction management, Chinese design institute management and procurement services.
Suzhou project characteristics and costs
The Suzhou facility produces Lamivudine, one of the first oral treatments for Hepatitis B. It also manufactures other GlaxoSmithKline products.
It is planned that a range of products, including Heptodin and antibiotics, will be manufactured at Suzhou. Therefore, the plant will also serve as a mainland China-based headquarters for sales and marketing.
The pharmaceutical facility comprises primary and secondary plants with cleanroom facilities, process and others ancillary buildings and external works. Part of the complex will be the warehousing and materials receipt/dispatch facilities, the general and pharmaceutical quality utility system, administration laboratory and utility areas, and the general infrastructure surrounding the facility.
The Suzhou project was co-ordinated from Dewjoc’s headquarters in Middlesborough, with two senior staff spending 18 months on site to provide technical support to the Chinese construction teams to install both imported and local components.
The plant comprises ten buildings, including three environmentally controlled manufacturing modules and an automated receipt and despatch warehouse.
The buildings sit on 24m-long piles supporting a raised ground floor and are designed to withstand earthquakes and tropical storms. Steelwork and cladding, including the entire external façade, was fabricated in the UK and shipped to China by sea.