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AbbVie sells biologics plant to Pharmaron, fueling the China company’s cell and gene therapy ambitions

Roughly half a year after closing its $63 billion megamerger with Allergan, AbbVie is letting go of the drugmaker’s Liverpool, England biologics plant.

AbbVie agreed to sell off the biomanufacturing plant to China-based Pharmaron for $118.7 million in cash. The move comes shortly after Pharmaron bought out Absorption Systems in the U.S., paving the way for a cell and gene therapy platform that runs the gamut from early research to commercial manufacturing.

Pharmaron will fold in Allergan Biologics’ Liverpool, England site and keep the more than 150 workers now employed there, the company said in a release.

The plant puts Pharmaron on track to add commercial manufacturing to its integrated cell and gene therapy platform, which also offers pre-clinical research and product development, Pharmaron said.

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Specifically, the Allergan Biologics plant uses a suspension cell culture system, where growth is dictated by the concentration of cells in the medium. This type of cell production is easier to scale up for commercial manufacturing than adherent cell cultures, in which growth hinges on surface area, potentially limiting product yields.

Phamaron has also set its sights on future capacity and capability upgrades at the Liverpool site, CEO Boliang Lou said in a release.

Allergan last January opened the doors to its €160m ($176 million) biologics 2 facility at its Westport Campus in County Mayo, Ireland. In addition to being the exclusive manufacturing site for Allergan’s prized Botox franchise, the company said it was eyeing other projects there, including a new microbiology and cell-based laboratory and investments in its eye products manufacturing facilities.

The Westport plant opened just a few months before AbbVie and Allergan scored U.S. antitrust approval for their $63 billion megamerger. AbbVie is now leaning on Botox’s blockbuster sales, as well as the swift-rising antipsychotic Vraylar, as it braces for looming biosimilar competition to megablockbuster Humira.

Pharmaron, for its part, picked up non-clinical CRO Absorption Systems for $137.5 million in cash last November, snaring facilities in Philadelphia, San Diego and Boston. The deal gave a boost to Pharmaron’s established ophthalmology and medical device services and brought Absorption Systems’ cell and gene therapy R&D and testing know-how into its growing platform.

Advisory firm Goetzpartners was Pharmaron’s exclusive financial adviser on the Allergan Biologics buy, while O’Melveny provided legal counsel.

(Source: Fierce Pharma, 2021)

FUJIFILM Diosynth Biotechnologies Breaks Ground For Major Expansion Of Its Large Scale Biologics Production Facility In Denmark

FUJIFILM Diosynth Biotechnologies, a world leading contract development and manufacturing organization (CDMO) for biologics, viral vaccines and viral vectors, held a virtual ground-breaking ceremony today to celebrate the start of its large scale cell culture expansion project. The major capital investment of 100 billion yen (928 million USD) from FUJIFILM Corporation was previously announced in June 2020.

The expansion will double the existing bulk drug substance production capacity with the addition of 6 x 20,000L bioreactors, bringing the total to 12 x 20,000-liter bioreactors. The new construction will also include a fully automated, cutting-edge fill/finish capability to support large-scale production of up to approximately 35 million units per annum. To support the expanded operations, FUJIFILM Diosynth Biotechnologies will add 300 positions in Denmark by the end of 2023.

The expansion investment also includes a new packaging line designed to assemble multiple types of auto-injectors and automatic labelling; these capabilities will be operational in spring 2022. The fill/finish production line is expected to be operational by summer 2023. As the final step in the construction, the large scale cell bulk drug substance expansion is expected to be operational by the end of 2023.

Today’s event included messages from His Excellency Miyagawa Manabu, Ambassador of Japan in Denmark; Mr. Takatoshi Ishikawa, Senior Executive Vice President, General Manager of Bio CDMO Division, FUJIFILM Corporation, Ms. Kirsten Jensen, Mayor of Hillerød and Mr. Toshihisa Iida, President and Managing Director of Fujifilm in Europe.

“It was a delight to celebrate the commencement of this very important expansion,” said Takatoshi Ishikawa, Senior Executive Vice President, General Manager of Bio CDMO Division, FUJIFILM Corporation. “Fujifilm has highlighted the CDMO business as a priority growth area, and is actively investing in technology to expand its manufacturing capacity to meet the growing demands of customers. Additionally, as Fujifilm’s largest investment in Europe for Bio CDMO business, this new facility represents our commitment to growing our Bio CDMO offering in the region to better serve our customers.”

“The expansion will be transformative, significantly expanding our ability to support current and future partners, infusing sustainability efforts into future operations, and further strengthening our leadership in biologic drug substance manufacturing. We are excited to see the site grow and to welcome 300 new employees,” said Lars Petersen, Chief Operating Officer and Senior Vice President, FUJIFILM Diosynth Biotechnologies Denmark.

“I am very proud that Fujifilm has chosen to make such a significant investment in Hillerød. We are committed to foster a good business environment, and have always had a fruitful and good collaboration with Fujifilm, and I look forward to welcoming even more Fujifilm employees to our municipality,” said Kirsten Jensen, Mayor of Hillerød.

(Source: PRNewswire, 2021)