Pharmaceutical giant Genentech plans move out of Solano County

Global pharmaceutical firm Genentech is planning to unload its production plant in Vacaville.

The South San Francisco-based company, founded in 1976 and acquired by Roche of Basel, Switzerland in 2009, will seek out a suitable buyer for the 427,000-square-foot site anchoring the Solano County biopharmaceutical cluster, Roche announced Wednesday. The site’s “large-scale” production capacity will be moved to one of its newer facilities.

The company intends to retain its 800 employees at the Vacaville plant. Otherwise, its representatives declined to say what would happen if the sale doesn’t go through. The company also wouldn’t provide the cost savings or whether the sell-off is designed to offset losses. It also didn’t say what it would list the facility for on the market.

“It’s always disappointing when a company closes, but we’re hopeful Genentech will find a company that will be able to utilize the facility at its existing site,” Vacaville Economic Development Director Don Burrus told the Business Journal. “We think that’s a great plan.”

The $250 million Vacaville plant built in 1998 on New Horizons Way is one of the oldest in the Roche network and specializes in biologics medicines including Herceptin, Actemra, Perjeta, Rituxan, Ocrevus and Vabysmo. The drugmaker’s experience creating monoclonal antibodies from genetically-modified living cells has placed it on the map as a cancer-fighting trailblazer. Genentech has more than 13,000 employees.

As a member of the Roche Group, Genentech’s parent company’s Pharmaceutical division reported $47.7 billion in global sales in 2022. U.S. sales are about half that, which includes Genentech and other U.S. affiliates.

“We aim to find a buyer who shares our values and respects the contributions and expertise of our colleagues at the facility,” Global Head of Pharma Technical Operations Susanne Hundsbaek-Pedersen said in a statement.

Russ Moroz, a commercial real estate broker with Marcus & Millichap based in Palo Alto, said the company that was ranked No. 14 on Forbes largest California companies may want to consider a sale-leaseback option in this type of high interest-rate environment. The proposal, which involves selling the property then renting it from the new owner, would involve a lease to counter “high borrowing costs.”

“More buyers are doing this now, but there are so many variables involved with something like this,” Moroz said.

Whatever option proves prudent for the drugmaker, the first order of business for the company’s next chapter involves the announcement, said spokeswoman Heather Gloe.

“(The) announcement now allows us to initiate that confidential process (of finding a potential buyer),” she said.

Matt Gardner, chairman of the California Biomanufacturing Center based in Vacaville, indicated it’s probable another biomed firm may go in the space and use the same tooling and equipment — one that will therefore need the human expertise to run the operation. Gardner added the Solano County facility has launched many careers.

“If they just change the hardware, all kinds of processes (with different companies) could use the tooling. Yes, other users may have to make some modifications,” he said.

Gardner commended the leadership of the Genentech team and its accomplishments, having conducted 10 “successful clinical trials in a row” starting in 2004 — a decade after it bought the land in the high-growth region of Solano County. Gardner insisted Genentech led the monoclonal development path, then “the rest of the industry caught up.”

This monoclonal research, used to identify the presence of proteins, represents a global therapeutic market valued at $115.2 billion in 2018, according to the Journal of Biomedical Science. It’s estimated to reach $300 billion by 2025.

This story has been updated to reflect global and U.S. sales for Roche, Genentech’s parent company.

Susan Wood covers law, cannabis, production, tech, energy, transportation, agriculture as well as banking and finance. She can be reached at 530-545-8662 or

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