Bristol Myers offloading Swiss tablet and capsule plant to Chinese CDMO WuXi STA

WuXi Biologics spent 2020 laying out manufacturing expansions left and right. Now, another CDMO under the WuXi umbrella is getting in on the action.

WuXi AppTec subsidiary STA Pharmaceutical, also known as WuXi STA, plans to buy a Bristol Myers Squibb tablet and capsule production plant in Couvet, Switzerland, the parties said Tuesday. If the deal closes in the second quarter as planned, WuXi STA will take over operations at the plant, snaring equipment as well as the current Couvet workforce.

Until then, the facility will continue to function as part of Bristol Myers’ manufacturing network, the drugmaker said. The companies are keeping financial terms under wraps, a Bristol Myers spokesperson said.

The plant, which WuXi STA will use as a commercial manufacturing and supply center, will position the company to break into the European market, CEO Minzhang Chen, Ph.D., said over email. "WuXi STA’s top priority remains ensuring there is no disruption to the manufacturing and global supply of life-saving medicines that currently are produced at Couvet site," he added. 

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The site will mark WuXi STA’s first CDMO foray into Europe. The company currently runs facilities in the U.S. and China, according to its website, and, with the Bristol Myers plant, WuXi STA is set to expand its capsule and tablet production arsenal. 

The CDMO already cranks out tablets at its 45,000-square-foot Shanghai Waigaoquiao facility in China and boasts capsule production capacity at its dedicated commercial manufacturing facility in WuXi City.

Its first U.S. site, meanwhile, was established in San Diego back in 2016. The roughly 45,600-square-foot facility is equipped with a pilot plant, kilo lab and six production bays, plus process chemistry and analytical labs, the company says. There, WuXi STA performs process R&D as well as API and drug production for early-phase clinical trials.

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Meanwhile, WuXi AppTec compatriot WuXi Biologics went on something of a CDMO expansion tear last year. In May, the company ponied up $60 million to build its first U.S. biologics facility. The 107,000-square-foot plant, being built at a 46-acre master-planned manufacturing hub dubbed The Reactory in Worcester, Massachusetts, will eventually employ 150 once it's up and running in 2022, WuXi said.  

Later that same month, WuXi Biologics penned a lease agreement for a 33,000-square-foot process development lab in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, and, in June, it inked another lease for a 66,000-square-foot clinical manufacturing facility in Cranbury, New Jersey. Plus, the CDMO didn't stick to stateside expansions alone: WuXi Biologics bookended the year with takeovers of Bayer facilities in Leverkusen and Wuppertal, Germany, in January and December, respectively. 

Editor's note: This story was updated with comments from WuXi STA.