Former AstraZeneca UK plant back up for sale, putting 270 jobs at risk

AstraZeneca Avalon, UK plant
The former AstraZeneca Avlon plant in Avonmouth, England, is again up for sale. (AstraZeneca)

A CDMO that has made a habit of snapping up Big Pharma’s discarded manufacturing plants has put a former AstraZeneca plant into bankruptcy.

Avara Avlon Pharma Services, called in administrators after a major contract came to an end, BristolLive reports. The company is looking for a buyer for the site in Avonmouth, England, in an effort to save 270 jobs.

"Avlon has experienced financial difficulties in recent months as a result of a major contract with a customer coming to an end,” said accountant and insolvency specialist David Rubin, who with his partner Asher Miller has been named to oversee the administration, BristolLive reported. “The joint administrators are now managing the site, whilst they seek a buyer for the business and assets.”

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RELATED: U.S. CMO buys AstraZeneca U.K. plant, saves 210 jobs 

When Avara acquired the API plant from AstraZeneca plant in 2016, terms were not disclosed but the drugmakers said Avara would manufacture products for AstraZeneca on a contract basis as part of the deal. The newspaper says AstraZeneca remains its sole customer.

Rubin said "the major customer” has agreed to provide short-term funding but if a buyer is not found by April the employees will be let go.

The plant has been on the brink of closure for years. AstraZeneca in 2014 said that it would close it by 2017 after generics undermined sales of high-cholesterol drug Crestor and bipolar treatment Seroquel whose APIs were manufactured there. AstraZeneca has closed or is closing other facilities as it remakes its manufacturing network as part of a $1.1 billion cost-cutting plan.

RELATED: Novartis' under-pressure Sandoz unit offloads Quebec plant to fast-growing Avara

This was the second plant AstraZeneca sold to the Norwalk, Connecticut-based CDMO. In 2017, it sold Avara a solid dose facility in Reims, France, which also includes packaging and distribution operations.

In about three year’s time, Avara has bought nine sites from drugmakers like AstraZeneca, Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline who were looking to unload unneeded facilities. It saved hundreds of jobs in the process. Avara agreed to keep on 500 workers at a sterile manufacturing facility and nearby development center in Boucherville, Quebec that it agreed to buy from Novartis last year. The site is the biggest injectables production facility in Canada and provides drugs to the Canadian healthcare system. 

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