Bayer HealtCare, Berkeley’s biggest private employer, is investing $100 million in a new testing facility on its 45-acre West Berkeley campus. Photo: Tracey Taylor

Bayer HealthCare on Wednesday announced an investment of $100 million to build a new product testing facility at the company’s 45-acre manufacturing site in West Berkeley. The funds will support the pharmaceutical company’s next generation of hemophilia A therapies.

Bayer said the investment represented its continued commitment to the Bay Area, which is its U.S. headquarters for research, development and biotech manufacturing.

“Building upon our legacy in hemophilia A, we are delighted to continue Bayer’s leadership in working to bring treatment options to patients around the world,” said Joerg Heidrich, a senior vice president and site head for Bayer in Berkeley, in a prepared statement.

Joerg Heidrich, Senior Vice President for Product Supply Biotech and Site Head at Bayer’s Berkeley HQ. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel

Bayer won approval from the city of Berkeley’s zoning board in September to make significant changes at its campus to prepare for the hoped-for investment. A spokeswoman said in May 2014 that the new 3-story facility would house testing operations — on an existing parking area and empty lot — “for various raw materials and final product” related to the treatments. The plan at the time was also to demolish three buildings, at 800 Dwight Way to make way for the new facility.

“The new product testing facility will test Bayer’s investigational products in accordance with rigorous global regulatory requirements,” said Dr. David Weinreich, head of global development and specialty medicine at Bayer. “With today’s announcement, we are thrilled to further strengthen our commitment to the hemophilia A patient community that Bayer has served for more than a quarter century.”

Along with the new facility, this investment is expected to create 325,000 hours of jobs with local union contractors in trades ranging from glaziers to iron workers to sprinkler fitters.

A small plexiglass box mounted on a wall at the Bayer HQ shows just how small an amount of the active ingredient of their Kogenate FS therapy is made every year — about 400 grams. Photo: Tracey Taylor

Worldwide, the Bayer Group operates in the fields of healthcare, agriculture and high-tech materials. Bayer HealthCare is a subgroup of Bayer AG which is based in Leverkusen, Germany, and has annual sales of around EUR 20.0 billion (2014).

Berkeleyside recently toured Bayer’s West Berkeley plant at Dwight Way and Seventh Street, which is the third largest biotech employer in the Bay Area (after Genentech and Gilead). It is the largest private employer in Berkeley, with 1,500 staff, around 150 of whom are focused on development, and it has a further 100 people working on research at its U.S. Innovation Center in San Francisco’s Mission Bay area.

Read more Berkeleyside stories about Bayer HealthCare.

Bayer’s Berkeley location has historically been focused on making hemophilia A treatments. Hemophilia is a disorder where the blood doesn’t clot normally. The company’s development team is also investigating therapies for different disease indications, including other hematological diseases, bleeding disorders, oncology, ophthalmology and women’s health.

Some quick facts about Bayer HealthCare in Berkeley:

  • The Bayer site was originally Cutter Labs, established in 1897.
  • Bayer began operating at the Berkeley location after buying Cutter in 1974.
  • The forklift trucks that scoot around the 45-acre campus have priority over pedestrians — due to the potential precious nature of  their cargo.
  • There are 55 buildings on the campus.
  • Bayer in Berkeley supplies around 10,000 hemophilia patients in the U.S., and 400,000 globally.
  • The actual amount of the active ingredient made annually for Bayer’s Kogenate FS medication is tiny — only around 400 grams. It is such a small amount that Bayer has a plexiglass box of the same amount of white powder mounted on a wall so that visitors can see just how little it is.
  • In 1993 Bayer HealthCare and the City of Berkeley established Biotech Partners to train local students for technical positions in bioscience. The program currently partners with Berkeley High School, Oakland Technical High School, and the Peralta Community College District and is expanding to other Bay Area school districts. Over 35 corporate, government, education and industry partners are now involved with Biotech Partners.
Bayer’s Berkeley campus has 55 buildings currently and employs 1,500 people. Photo: Tracey Taylor
Visitors to the Bayer campus in West Berkeley are cautioned to stay on paths and watch out for the ubiquitous forklift trucks carrying potentially precious cargo. They have priority on the campus. Photo: Tracey Taylor
Pipes carrying water among other things are exposed and clearly labeled at several areas on the Bayer campus. Photo: Tracey Taylor
A lab where the active ingredient for Bayer’s Kogenate FS drug is made on the pharmaceutical company’s Berkeley campus. Photo: Tracey Taylor

Bayer HealthCare may expand in West Berkeley (09.12.14)
Bayer invites public comment on new building proposal (05.06.14)
Berkeley praises Bayer, city’s largest for-profit employer (11.02.12)

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Tracey Taylor is co-founder of Berkeleyside and co-founder and editorial director of Cityside, the nonprofit parent to Berkeleyside and The Oaklandside. Before launching Berkeleyside, Tracey wrote for...