PLEASANT PRAIRIE, WI.–Nexus Pharmaceuticals Inc. plans to complete its nearly $100 million Pleasant Prairie sterile injectables plant in April 2021 and a company executive said it will help address the United States’ reliance on foreign pharmaceutical suppliers magnified by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Privately held Nexus Pharmaceuticals, of Lincolnshire, Illinois, announced in July 2019 that the first phase of its multi-year project would open in 2021 but didn’t specify an opening timeframe. Production should be underway in the facility by early 2022 with 77 employees working there, said chief financial officer Usman Ahmed.

“It’s going good — so far so good,” Ahmed said of the project.

The three-story, 84,000-square-foot facility is being built in the Prairie Highlands Corporate Park, which is west of Interstate 94 across from LakeView Corporate Park and next to a new Aurora Health Care complex. The total project cost is just under $100 million including construction, real estate and equipment, Ahmed said.

The plant will be Nexus Pharmaceuticals’ first manufacturing facility. The company currently uses contract manufacturers in the United States and Europe, Ahmed said, and will shift some of that manufacturing in-house, Ahmed said.

The company, which was founded in 2003 by CEO Mariam Darsot, specializes in difficult-to-manufacture, high-quality specialty and generic drugs. In Pleasant Prairie, Nexus Pharmaceuticals will make medications including those used in critical care, cardiac care and the central nervous system, but will not make its oncology products there, Ahmed said.

Ultimately, Nexus Pharmaceuticals will add more plant space and employ 400 people at the site, he said.

“The goal is to keep expanding,” he said.

The company’s products will be used for Covid-19 patients who are on ventilators, Ahmed said.

In October, Nexus Pharmaceuticals announced it received FDA approval for succinylcholine chloride Injection, USP in 200mg/10mL multiple-dose vials. The FDA assigned an AP-rating as a generic to Quelicin from a Pfizer subsidiary.

The drug has seen an increased demand due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Nexus said.

The FDA approval further cemented Nexus’ commitment “to alleviating the drug shortage crisis with sterile injectable products produced exclusively in the U.S. and Europe,” Darsot said in a press release.

Covid-19 laid bare the United States’ dependence on drugs and drug components made in other countries, especially India and China.

More than 80% of the drugs marketed in the U.S., including top brand names, are made overseas, according to the University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy. Drugs distributed in the U.S. often are made in China and then shipped to India for manufacturing into finished products, U.S. Pharmacist reported.

Nexus Pharmaceuticals has seen the trend in its market for injectable generics, Ahmed said. He said company representatives have been working with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on how the new plant can help remedy that trend, he said.

“We’re really proud that we’re one of the first companies to shine a spotlight on the need for domestic manufacturing,” he said.

The company will use state-of-the-art equipment and hire employees for high-tech roles including microbiologist, chemist, plant engineer, information technology and manufacturing technicians, Ahmed said.

The state of Wisconsin will provide $1.5 million in tax credits to Nexus over the next four years if it hits hiring and capital spending goals.

Written by Rich Kirchen, Milwaukee Business Journal