Status: 22.09.2023, 07:00 a.m.
By: Bettina Stuhlweißenburg
Prime Minister Markus Söder observes with interest how a robot uses pipettes to put small droplets of human serum into special containers. The machine is located in Sandoz's new laboratory in Holzkirchen. © Stefan Schweihofer
With a new laboratory, the pharmaceutical company Sandoz wants to make Holzkirchen the leading location for the development of so-called biosimilars. The research facility is scheduled to be completed in November. High-ranking state politicians have already got an idea of this.
Holzkirchen – A construction fence still separates the laboratory from the rest of the company premises. The employees are still busy calibrating machines to prepare the laboratory for the development of so-called biosimilars. Similar to generics, these are successors to existing biological drugs that are used in the treatment of serious diseases such as cancer. But Sandoz plans to officially open its new laboratory as early as November 9th.
The Group has invested 25 million euros in buildings and equipment. That's why Chief Medical Officer Florian Bieber proudly presents a robot that pipettes human serum – a processed blood sample. "The only robot of its kind in Germany," he emphasizes. Because 66,000 samples are required for a study, they cannot be pipetted by hand, says Bieber.
In front of him are Prime Minister Markus Söder (CSU) with his entourage, state parliament candidate Ilse Aigner, Holzkirchen's mayor Christoph Schmid (CSU) and district administrator Olaf von Löwis (CSU). The visit of the politicians on this sunny Thursday is "an important signal for the location," explains company spokeswoman Justyna Joanna Konczalska. Sandoz had submitted an application for research funding to the Bavarian State Government. "We are happy to support this, because Bavaria is home to high-tech and innovation," says Söder. "By committing research funds, we are making a contribution to making the site safer." He has been in talks with Sandoz for a year now. "We want something like this to exist not only in India and China, but also here." Now it's the federal government's turn: "We need a realistic supply chain law and competitive energy prices."
Sandoz Managing Director Thomas Weigold emphasizes the need for a stable basic supply of medicines. As is well known, bottlenecks are currently occurring again and again. Weigold blames this not least on the system of so-called discount agreements, which leave no room for manoeuvre to reflect higher costs, for example for energy. "If you were to tackle it, you would bring more producers back to Germany," says Weigold. He emphasizes that generics cover 80 percent of all drugs administered in Germany, but manufacturers such as Sandoz currently receive less than six cents per patient and day of treatment.
As Sandoz Market Access Manager Christopher Kirsch explains, the health insurance companies are responsible for the procurement of medicines. "The cheapest bidder wins the contract," Kirsch criticizes. In terms of personnel costs alone, production in Europe is significantly more expensive than in India, for example. Therefore, the award criteria of the health insurance companies would have to be modified.
While Kirsch explains the background, Söder poses for the selfies, for which the Sandoz employees, who come from all over the world, patiently queue up. "Thank you," a Kazakh woman thanked the Prime Minister in a friendly manner and looked at the photo with satisfaction. "Nice, very nice."
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