UCB Farchim builds leadership in antihistaminic therapies

UCB Farchim was created in Switzerland in 1986 for commercial purposes only. At least, in the initial phase. In 1996, things changed when UCB Farchim settled in its current site in Bulle, in the canton of Fribourg, and started industrial operations. It focused then into the production and commercialisation of drugs fighting allergies (Zyrtec et Xyzal).  And in 1999, the entire allergy business of the Belgian group UCB was transferred to Bulle.

To face the success of its antihistaminic products, the site has been expanded with the building of new industrial facilities. As of today more than 200 millions Swiss francs have been invested on the 100 600 square meters of the Swiss site. In 2005, the Bulle manufacturing plant has been registered by the FDA for the production of the active ingredients of its blockbuster, Zyrtec. Since 2006, the site of Bulle has expanded its manufacturing capacity to produce and deliver its worldwide UCB anti-epileptic and blockbuster Keppra. In 2009, UCB established its Biologics Center of Expertise in Bulle in order to manage its manufacturing expertise globally.Focusing on biopharma

2004 was a turning point in the history of UCB Farchim parent company, the UCB Group who is headquartered in Brussels. Founded in 1928, UCB was a pharmaceutical and specialties chemicals company. Still, after the takeover of British company Celltech and the disposal of its activities in surface specialties, UCB became a leader in the biopharmaceutical industry. This focus was reinforced after the 2006 acquisition of Schwarz Pharma in Germany.

With more than 8000 people employed worldwide of which 230 in Bulle, sales of 3,1 billion euros in 2009 and a market capitalisation of around 5,8 billion euros, UCB looks for solutions for people living with severe diseases. UCB teams develop, produce and market innovative medicines with a focus on the fields of the central nervous system and immunology disorders. Within a few years UCB has transformed itself into an R&D driven company, investing more than 20% of its revenues in R&D every year.

2009 marked an important turning point in the execution phase of our strategy, with the launch of three new products in major markets. In the course of the year, we gained regulatory approvals for and launched Cimzia, Vimpat and Neupro in either the U.S. or Europe, or in both. These developments, together with other achievements during the year, have strengthened our confidence in our potential and in our aspiration to become the patient-centric global biopharmaceutical leader in severe diseases of the central nervous system and in immunology.


GLOBAL UCB has established its Biologics Center of Expertise in Bulle in 2009.


Superfast approvals

In 2009, we not only obtained approval (in May for the U.S. and in October for Europe) for Cimzia for adults suffering from rheumatoid arthritis (RA), but also launched the product in the U.S. within two days of approval, and in Germany, the first European country, within two hours of approval! In June 2009, we also obtained approval to launch Vimpat in the U.S. for the treatment of the most common form of epilepsy, launching the product only a few days later. In Europe, where Vimpat was approved in September 2008, we launched the therapy in 11 new countries in 2009 including France, Greece, Italy and Scandinavia.

Neupro was made available in Europe in June 2009 for all patients suffering from Parkinson’s disease and was additionally approved for the treatment of restless legs syndrome. With the recent successful launch in Italy, Neupro is now available in most EU countries with the exception of France and Belgium.Finally, Toviaz was approved in the U.S. for the treatment of overactive bladder, following its earlier approval in Europe in October 2008. This enabled Pfizer, which has worldwide marketing rights, to launch the therapy in the U.S. in April 2009.

Between 2008 and 2009, approval of new molecular entities developed by UCB was unmatched by any other company in its peer group. Meanwhile, for the future, progress was made with epratuzumab, a novel antibody for systemic lupus erythematosus, with the successful completion of its Phase IIb dose-ranging study. In addition, we underscored the value of our strategic partnerships by working with our partner, Amgen, to advance CDP7851, or anti-sclerostin, a novel antibody for the treatment of bone loss disorders, into Phase II with trials for the treatment of postmenopausal osteoporosis as well as in fracture healing.

UCB completed two Phase III clinical trials that investigated the efficacy of brivaracetam, a new treatment for epilepsy, with one of these trials demonstrating a significant reduction in seizure frequency. After review of these results and discussions with opinion leaders and regulatory authorities, we plan to carry out another Phase III study to confirm the drug’s efficacy. Approval of such a new treatment would strengthen UCB epilepsy therapy business build today on Swiss made Keppra.

By Jacques

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