Chinese CDMO Asymchem expands footprint with deal to take over former Pfizer UK site

Asymchem Laboratories is expanding its global footprint by taking on Pfizer’s leftovers in Sandwich, England.

China’s Asymchem inked an agreement to take over the former Pfizer U.K. small-molecule active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) pilot plant and part of its development laboratories, marking the CDMO’s first foray into Europe.

Pfizer’s $3.5 billion cost-cutting campaign hit the site last November, when the company laid off 500 staffers of the 940 it employed there at the time. While Pfizer cut the plant’s small-molecule production capabilities, a spokesperson had said that other functions would continue “with a different size.”

Pfizer had a deep history at the site: It’s where scientists discovered what became well-known blockbuster erectile dysfunction med Viagra.

Asymchem, for its part, plans to kick off operations at the development labs in June and then at the API plant in August. It expects to hire 100 workers by the end of this year, including “many staff” previously employed by Pfizer, according to a company press release.

Beyond that, the CDMO is plotting add-ons that could widen the site's manufacturing capabilities to include peptides and oligonucleotides plus additional sustainability capabilities.

Asymchem leased the new digs from Discovery Park, a U.K. scientific campus featuring lab and office space. The company is “excited” to join the European pharmaceutical manufacturing community, CEO Hao Hong, Ph.D., said in the release.

“Meeting the needs of our clients in bringing manufacturing into the Western market will continue to be part of our long-term strategy to meet overall global business demands,” Hong added.

Asymchem's foray into Western drug production shows that despite a biosecurity crackdown in the U.S. that's currently hanging over WuXi AppTec and WuXi Biologics, many of China's biopharma service providers are still eying expansions and eager to serve the global market.

The manufacturer employs more than 9,300 staffers across the world. In 2022, Asymchem began planning a 4 billion Chinese yuan to 5 billion Chinese yuan ($557 million to $697 million) campus outside of Shanghai.

That announcement came a few months after the CDMO wrapped up construction at new production buildings at its Dunhua and Tianjin manufacturing sites in China, which were part of a goal to double its existing small-molecule batch capacity to 1,700 cubic meters by the end of 2022.

Meanwhile, in the U.S., Asymchem in early 2022 struck a deal to buy Massachusetts-based Snapdragon Chemistry for $57.9 million; it dropped the planned buyout after the deal was struck down by the U.S. Treasury. Cambrex later snapped up Snapdragon.