UPDATED: WuXi to sell AstraZeneca a biologics plant in China for $100M

WuXi PharmaTech CEO Ge Li

China's WuXi has been building out its bioogics manufactruing capacity for several years, including plans to build the largest biologics plant in China. WuXi PharmaTech ($WX) CEO Ge Li said it was another move to muscle up its global biologics capabilities. Now the company has struck a deal to sell some of its exsiting capacity to AstraZeneca ($AZN).

The deal is an outgrowth of the joint venture that AstraZeneca's biotech unit MedImmune and WuXi AppTec created in 2012 to develop and commercialize biologics. AstraZeneca announced today that it has an option to buy the capacity from WuXi in Wuxi City "in the next few years" for about $100 million. Until that happens, AstraZeneca said WuXi AppTec will continue as its exclusive partner for R&D and manufacturing biologics in China. 

In an emailed statement WuXi said the purchase option covers only a small fraction of its total biologics manufacturing service capability. The plant is one of serveral the company has or is building. It emphasized that AstraZeneca is not buying the new plant that will be China's largest biologics plant when completed in 2017.

The deal is part of AstraZeneca's plan to establish local operations in China that will allow it to research, develop and manufacture drugs in the country, its second-largest market. The company is also investing in its existing small-molecule drug manufacturing there with plans to build a $50 million development and launch facility alongside its existing manufacturing site in Wuxi City. As part of its ambitions there, AstraZeneca is also creating a research hub in China that will house up to 50 scientists in Shanghai and Wuxi City to work on R&D for both small molecules and biologics.

WuXi's newest addition to its manufacturing capacity, which is slated to be complete in January 2017, will house 14 2000-L disposable bioreactors for fed-batch cell culture and two 1000-L bioreactors for perfusion runs. In addition to traditional batch and perfusion manufacturing, the facility is being designed to run semicontinuous and continuous manufacturing processes, WuXi has said.

- here's the announcement