Fujifilm works hard on factory for cell culture media in Tilburg
TILBURG - Due to corona, the demand for cell culture media, a product used in the production of vaccines and medicines, has increased rapidly worldwide. The good news: Fujifilm is currently building a factory in Tilburg specialized in cell culture media. "We have already been asked whether construction could go faster, but unfortunately the coronacrisis has caused a small delay," says Fujifilm vice president Albert van Maren.
The activities that were already carried out at the Fujifilm factory in Tilburg have gained momentum due to the coronacrisis. The markets in which the Japanese company is originally active, including the graphics industry and photo paper, have fallen even faster since the pandemic. “People simply don’t go on (business) trips or need fewer brochures,” says Van Maren. However, the market on which the company is increasingly focusing, including cell culture media for pharmaceutical companies, is growing faster.
Currently, you can find a large sign in Tilburg on business park Vossenberg, in front of a hall where film rolls were previously made, with the text “Fujifilm expands in Healthcare”. And that is, after some reorganisations in recent years, quite a boost. “A new building, new products: that also gives new energy”, says Van Maren.
The construction of the cell culture media plant, of which there are comparable in Japan and the US, was announced in July 2019, well before the corona pandemic. A complicated process will soon be used to make powders and liquids, which will form a breeding ground in which cells can be grown. The pharmaceutical industry in particular makes use of this to make medicines and vaccines on a large scale.
Today, this seems more necessary than ever. But building faster is not possible, says Van Maren. “If the factory had been there now, we would have already produced. But because a number of deliveries from abroad have been delayed and the rules regarding the coronacrisis, we have been delayed. We hope to deliver the material to customers in April or May,” says Van Maren. “But these customers must also certify the material. We hope to be fully operational in November 2021.”
Weigh, mix and dissolve
All in all, the new Fujifilm factory in Tilburg offers a great future. “The installation already has more capacity than market expectations. So we can also scale up if customers need more. ” As of this week, eight employees of the company are already temporarily employed in the US. They not only learn the work there, they also help out because of the high demand. The factory will create a total of 70 new jobs in Tilburg, partly also for people who already work there. Currently there are more than 750 people employed at Fujifilm in Tilburg.
It’s a big change, from printed matter and offset plates to cell culture media, but according to Van Maren there are also a lot of similarities. “It concerns other raw materials and other chemicals, but the very precise weighing, mixing and dissolving of substances is done with the same processes,” he says. However, cell culture media needs very clean conditions, in which a dust-free environment is not enough. “Otherwise, in these ideal conditions, other cells will also grow quickly.”