Australia’s second-largest biotechnology company by revenue behind CSL (ASX: CSL), Telix Pharmaceuticals (ASX: TLX) opened a world-class radiopharmaceutical nuclear medicine facility in Belgium on Thursday.
The $21 million facility will serve as a central R&D facility and manufacturing site for radioisotopes and cancer treatment products in the EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa) region.
The Melbourne-headquartered company, which has grown its international operations to the US, Japan, Switzerland and now Belgium, bought the 35,000-square-metre site in April 2020 for $9 million from Germany’s Eckert & Ziegler Group.
The 2,800 square-metre radiopharmaceutical production facility, located in the Walloon region in Belgium’s south, in a hub of radiopharma, pharmaceutical and logistics companies known as the Radiopharma Valley, will be one of Europe’s largest.
“It is our vision that this facility will not only exist for Telix but operate as a hub for research, development and manufacturing for our partners and collaborators across industry, academia and clinical practice,” Telix’s CEO for the EMEA region, Raphael Ortiz, says.
The business is on track to report revenues of over $450 million in 2023 from US sales of its prostate cancer product Illuccix. Some analysts predict the company will generate $1 billion in revenue by 2025.
The company’s primary research focus is radiopharmaceuticals, which use targeting agents (small molecules or antibodies) to deliver targeted radiation to cancer cells, regardless of where the cancer is in the body, which can be used for cancer diagnosis or therapy.
Often referred to as theranostics, this approach has the potential to better inform treatment decisions and deliver personalised therapy for patients.
According to the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre, each year more than 10 million imaging procedures are performed in the EU using radiopharmaceutical agents.
Due to increasing clinical development activity of imaging and therapeutics, the number of patients requiring treatment with radiopharmaceuticals worldwide is set to increase.
According to a recent industry analyst report from MEDraysintell, the market for radiopharmaceuticals is growing rapidly, up 10 per cent year-on-year to US$6 billion in global sales in 2021 and is forecast to reach US$33 billion annual sales by 2031.
“Recent events including COVID have taught us that if we are to invest in developing radiopharmaceutical products, we must also invest in ensuring that patients can have access to this new generation of cancer treatments,” Ortiz says.
After extensive redevelopment of the site, which included the decommissioning and removal of two particle accelerators, the facility was granted a renewed licence for the production of an extensive list of radioisotopes required for the company’s research, development, commercial and clinical activities.
Managing director and group CEO Dr Christian Behrenbruch says such sites in the area are a rarity.
“There are very few places in the world where a site of this scale could be constructed and secure a licence to produce the array of isotopes that our licence allows,” he says.
The Wallonia regional government provided grant funding and the Wallonia Export & Investment Agency (AWEX) provided access to financing solutions, in addition to the company’s own funding, to support first stage buildout works.
Belgium has one of the highest concentrations of nuclear medicine equipment and specialists per capita in the world and is a leading hub for innovation in nuclear medicine, offering various tax incentives and subsidy programs, such as withholding tax exemptions for researchers involved in R&D programs.
“We are very grateful for the support of the Walloon regional government and AWEX and hope that this facility will contribute to the ongoing growth of our industry and drive further investment in the region,” Ortiz says.
“We recognise the current and future utility of radiopharmaceuticals and the need to increase capacity to ensure the community can access these innovative technologies,” Walloon’s minister of economy and foreign trade Willy Borsus says.
“We welcome Telix’s commitment to the region through the creation of this state-of-the-art facility which will attract talent and drive increased investment across a broad range of areas in Wallonia including research, employment, education and health.”
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