Drug Maker MedImmune Eyes Plant Expansion in Frederick, Md.

HAGERSTOWN, Md. -- Drug maker MedImmune Inc. is considering expanding its Frederick manufacturing plant and adding 500 to 1,000 jobs, the city's economic development chief says.

MedImmune spokeswoman Jamie Lacey confirmed that the Gaithersburg-based company is considering adding manufacturing capacity for products that are now in development. She wouldn't name the sites being evaluated but acknowledged that MedImmune owns 30 acres next to the Frederick plant it built in 1997.

MedImmune also has manufacturing operations in Philadelphia; Speke, England; and Nijmegen, Netherlands; and research facilities in Gaithersburg, Mountain View, Calif., and Santa Clara, Calif.

Lacey said the company probably won't need any new manufacturing capacity before 2007 but executives hope to launch three new products by 2009.

"Obviously, we'd need to gear up for expanded manufacturing," she said.

MedImmune currently employs more than 230 people at its Frederick plant, according to Richard G. Griffin, Frederick's economic development director.

He presented details of a possible Frederick plant expansion at a Board of Aldermen meeting Wednesday. In a document distributed to aldermen, he said MedImmune had contacted the city regarding "a major new manufacturing facility" that would cost about $900 million and represent a 40-fold increase in production compared with the existing plant.

The first phase, representing a $450 million investment, would be completed in late 2008 or early 2009, and more capacity would be added depending on the market for the products, Griffin said.

He said MedImmune wanted an assurance that the city could provide up to 300,000 gallons of water daily for the plant. The aldermen said they expected the water to be available but they were unwilling to make changes in the city's water allocation ordinance that would enable MedImmune to reserve water in advance, The Frederick News-Post reported.

MedImmune makes the nasal influenza vaccine FluMist and products to prevent or reduce certain respiratory diseases, a disease associated with organ transplants, and certain toxic side effects of cancer treatment. Earlier this week, MedImmune announced Phase 3 clinical trials of a next-generation flu vaccine and a drug to prevent a common respiratory illness in high-risk infants.

MedImmune's stock was down 16 cents at $27.04 in late trading Thursday.