Novartis—born of the merger of Sandoz and Ciba-Geigy, which were already well-established in Belgium as a whole—has been present in Flanders since 2010. That’s when the Swiss pharma player acquired American eye care specialist Alcon, along with its facilities in Puurs, Flanders, for a whopping USD 12.9 billion. Over the years, the Puurs site has grown into the world’s largest facility for the production and distribution of eye drops and viscoelastics.
Between 2014 and 2018, Novartis funneled EUR 100 million into its operations in Puurs. The aim? To construct a biotech filling line and an analytical laboratory. Every year, the new line is capable of filling up to 18 million syringes with some of the most advanced medicines on the planet. Meanwhile, the new lab intensifies the quality control procedure at the facility even further, checking up to 250 million units per year.
“We use the new line to produce biotech medication for the treatment of illnesses such as arthritis, psoriasis and macular degeneration, the main cause of partial blindness in the elderly,” says Koen Strobbe, general manager of Novartis Puurs.
“The analytical laboratory ensures the production conforms to the most stringent quality and safety standards,” adds Philippe de Pougnadoresse, country president of Novartis in Belgium and Luxembourg. “In fact, standards are so high that the Puurs site is one of the few pharma players that can export to Japan—a country with extremely strict legislation—without the need for additional control mechanisms.”
The new filling line and the laboratory have been operational since September 2017. Both were officially inaugurated one month later. This was done in the presence of—among other government officials—Flanders’ Minister for Innovation, Work and Economy, Philippe Muyters.
Standards are so high that our Puurs site in Flanders is one of the few pharma players that can export to Japan—a country with extremely strict legislation—without the need for additional control mechanisms.
Through these major capital injections, Novartis’ site in Puurs has become an even more crucial link in the company’s operations. The Flanders-based facility employs more than 1,500 people and hired another 70 employees in 2018. Together, they are the driving force behind the production and shipment of over 2,780 different types of eye care products to about 155 countries around the world—making the Puurs site the global leader in its industry.
“With the most recent investment round, Novartis acknowledges the knowhow and expertise that has been accumulated at the Flanders-based site,” Koen Strobbe adds. Highlighting the company’s efforts in the region, Novartis was nominated for Flanders Investment & Trade’s Foreign Investment of the Year Trophy in 2018.