Human Genome plant opens today

Rockville facility to make new drugs

Genomic research

April 14, 1999|By Mark Guidera | Mark Guidera,SUN STAFF

Human Genome Sciences Inc. plans to open a $42 million manufacturing and processing plant today in Rockville, where it expects to produce pioneering new drugs based on its storehouse of information about genes and the roles they have in healing and disease.

The plant, built with the help of $2 million in state financing, is on a 13-acre site in a new life sciences park that the Johns Hopkins University is developing, the Johns Hopkins Belward Research Campus. It is a few miles from Human Genome's Rockville headquarters.

The plant will initially employ 75, and once fully operational could employ as many as 150, said Kate de Santis, an HGS spokeswoman.

William A. Haseltine, Human Genome's chairman and chief executive officer, said the plant would be the "first in the world" dedicated strictly to producing drugs developed from genomic research.

"Our hope is that HGS will be the first company to manufacture and market genomics-derived drugs," Haseltine said.

A number of other biotechnology companies, as well as many large pharmaceutical houses, are spending millions in the race to develop a new generation of drugs based on genetic information. The aim is to develop drugs that interrupt or otherwise address the molecular underpinnings of disease, rather than symptoms.

Maryland politicians, including Gov. Parris N. Glendening and Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, hailed HGS' decision to build the plant in Maryland, saying it would be a boost to the state's growing high-technology sector. The company had considered sites outside Maryland.

Glendening and Mikulski are expected to attend a dedication ceremony today.

The company plans to use the 80,000-square-foot facility primarily to produce experimental drugs based on human proteins, the organic compounds in genes that regulate cell behavior and have been shown to play a role in diseases.

The facility will produce enough batches of proteins that show promise so they may be tested in the lab, and it will produce enough experimental protein-based drugs so they can be used in human clinical tests.

The company may use the plant to produce batches of drugs approved by regulators for sale, but it would be required to undergo a Food and Drug Administration inspection and clearance before it could do so.

The company expects that the first experimental drug to be produced in the plant will be a gene-based therapy, VEGF-2, for treating cardiovascular disease.

Pub Date: 4/14/99

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