Lonza to sell 2 plants to NextPharma as it plows ahead with $93M capsule expansion

Lonza headquarters
Lonza is looking to sell two lipid oral dose plants in Europe as it barrels ahead on a $95 million capsule capacity expansion. (Lonza)

Swiss CDMO Lonza put down a major down payment in October to boost capsule manufacturing by 15% across eight global sites. Now, it's looking to refine that focus by taking several products off the menu.

Lonza is hammering out a deal to sell off a pair of sites in Ploermel, France and Edinburgh, Scotland to British CDMO NextPharma. Both sites produce lipid oral-dose drugs as liquid-filled hard capsules and softgels.

The divestment-to-be comes as Lonza looks to exit the pharma market for both products while maintaining capability for feasibility studies, the manufacturer said. The company plans to continue making one type of lipid capsule for nutritional and consumer health customers.

Lonza’s Ploermel site employs some 260 staffers, while its Edinburgh site has around 130 permanent employees. Both workforces will be transferred to NextPharma's payroll if the deal closes, a Lonza spokesperson said over email.

The companies are keeping financial details close to the vest, though the deal is expected to close in the first quarter of 2021, the spokesperson added.

As for NextPharma’s part, the London-based manufacturer aims to expand its arsenal of oral and topical CDMO offerings to include softgels and liquid-filled capsules. 

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Lonza, meanwhile, will stop making softgels entirely, but will continue to churn out Licaps-branded lipid capsule products for nutrition and consumer health customers at facilities in Colmar, France and Sagamihara, Japan.

Capsules in general will remain a fixture of Lonza’s business, the manufacturer said, pointing to a recent CHF 85 million ($93 million) expansion, set to boost annual capacity by 30 million capsules. That investment, which will expand Lonza's offerings across its Capsugel portfolio, will be split across eight sites in Belgium, France, the U.S., India, Indonesia, Mexico, Japan and China, the company said in October.

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The latest shave-off marks a quick detour from the expansion spree Lonza plotted out in 2020. After revealing plans for its capsule upgrade, the manufacturer in early December said it would build two manufacturing suites totaling 16,146 square feet in Visp, Switzerland, which will be dedicated to production of two cancer-fighting antibody-drug conjugates. That expansion is set to go live at the end of 2022 and will eventually employ 200 workers.

The company also has a number of pandemic production pacts on the docket, with agreements to produce Moderna’s mRNA vaccine and Humanigen’s anti-COVID-19 antibody lenzilumab. AstraZeneca followed Humanigen’s lead in the fall, tapping Lonza to crank out bulk drug substance for its own experimental antibody, AZD7442, at the CDMO’s Portsmouth, New Hampshire facilities.