Amgen R.I. is growing its operations to heal the world

Amgen Rhode Island manufacturing associates Leyshaliz Faliciano, left, and Richard Taranto work together making a batch of drug substance at the West Greenwich facility.
Amgen Rhode Island manufacturing associates Leyshaliz Faliciano, left, and Richard Taranto work together making a batch of drug substance at the West Greenwich facility.

PBN 2023 Manufacturing Awards

BRIAN BRITSON WALKS AROUND the extensive Amgen Rhode Island campus and marvels at how the employees continue to find ways to deliver high performance in output, safety and quality.

According to Britson, Amgen’s vice president of site operations, the West Greenwich biomedical manufacturing plant has increased its capacity by 150% since 2018 through what he calls “a series of improvements in the run rates for each product; the yield per lot – how much medicine is produced; a reduction in product changeovers; and plant shutdown ­optimization.”

The second facility at the 75-acre campus, code named AR30, has been operating since 2020. Fernando Fialho, Amgen’s executive director and plant manager, says the new plant, as a modular design facility, is only about one-third the size of a legacy biopharmaceutical manufacturing plant, yet it can produce comparable output.

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“As for sustainability, it uses a lot less energy, has a smaller carbon footprint, consumes much less water and generates less waste,” Fialho said.

With 900 full-time employees in Rhode Island, Amgen produces Enbrel, a biologic prescribed to patients with moderate to severe active rheumatoid arthritis or psoriatic arthritis, as well as several other lesser-known drugs that treat osteoporosis, high cholesterol and autoimmune diseases. The plant manufactures the ingredients and injectables that go into the drug capsules.

Amgen, a Fortune 500 company, focuses on three therapeutic areas – oncology, inflammation and general medicine – to provide innovative medicines for diseases for which limited treatment options are available. The Amgen AR5 facility, which went online in 2005, received Amgen’s Best Plant Award several times, most recently last year.

When AR30 is fully operational depends heavily on what product mix will be manufactured there, Britson says. Both he and Fialho anticipate that AR30 will be fully operational soon, though a larger workforce on the West Greenwich campus is not expected to come to fruition until 2024.

The scientific innovations being created at the sites mean that Amgen has expanded its product portfolio and can produce more output from its production processes, Fialho said. The company’s commitment to lean manufacturing and empowering employees to recommend improvements has reduced the amount of time Amgen needs to change from one product to another, so there’s less downtime.

With a focus on environmental, social and governance issues, Amgen announced “The Road to Net Zero” in 2021, a global initiative that identified several aspirations the company hopes to accomplish by 2027. These goals are to achieve carbon neutrality for Amgen-owned facilities and operations; reduce water consumption by 40%; and reduce disposed waste by 75%.

“We’re trending in the right direction,” Britson said. “We’re on track to achieve carbon neutrality, we’ve already exceeded our waste reduction goal. And, we’re 80% of the way to our water consumption reduction goal.”

Fialho said Amgen serves more than 10 million patients across more than 100 countries providing at least 27 medications. The company’s Safety Net Foundation provided more than $2.2 billion worth of medicine in 2022 to uninsured or underinsured individuals in the U.S.

Amgen’s focus on producing biologic medicines and biosimilars, a less-expensive version of the original biologic medicine, “drives our entire organization, not only the manufacturing staff,” Fialho said.

“It’s a very complex operation to supply biologics to patients, and it takes a shared commitment,” he said.

Each year, Amgen staff members from across the globe observe Mission Week to celebrate patients and understand their personal health journeys. Hearing these patients, as well as employees who rely on Amgen biologics, share their stories is inspirational, Britson said.

“Mission Week reinforces that the work we do matters. Every staff member embraces the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of our patients and their families,” Britson said. “Our mission inspires all of us to strive to continually improve and deliver outstanding performance.”

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