Pfizer expands cancer drug facility in Adelaide

Adelaide will become the national hub for producing a drug used to reduce infections in cancer patients when the expansion of a $21 million facility in the city’s inner-west is completed, the State Government says.

Adelaide site director of pharmaceuticals company Pfizer Dr Tony Mulcahy said the manufacturing facility at Thebarton would deliver $380 million to the South Australian economy over the next seven years.

The expansion will not create any new jobs but Dr Mulcahy said 100 people were involved in the production and global exportation of the drug called pegfilgrastim.

Dr Mulchay said essentially the injectable drug stimulates the level of white blood cells a patient produces, helping them deal better with any complications after chemotherapy.

“Normally a complication of cancer therapy is that your immune system is actually wiped out,” he said.

“What happens is that you have very, very low white blood cell counts and it’s then that you’re really susceptible to normal infections and they’re life threatening because you don’t have that immune protection.”

Dr Mulchay said the facility would be the only one of its kind in Australia.

He said the active ingredient for the medication would be made in Adelaide.

“There are probably two similar facilities in Australia that use a different manufacturing process, but this will be state-of-the art,” Dr Mulchay said.

“It’s the only one of its type in Australia, using the background of the living organism that we use.

“This pegfilgrastim we make here in Adelaide so we make the intermediate and then we work with our sister facility in Zagreb, where they put the chemical on the peg and put it into pre-fill syringes but we make the active ingredient here.”

Health Minister Jack Snelling said the expansion was a sign of job security into South Australia’s future.

“This is a wonderful sign of the transition of the South Australian economy to the jobs of the future — jobs of the future in pharmaceuticals and health industries,” Mr Snelling said.

“The Government, a few years ago now, made a very conscious decision that really we had a unique opportunity, that we had a proud history in medical research, to actually find opportunities to commercialise that research.

“We indentified health research as a component of the economy that was growing really quickly.”