Former Bristol Myers Squibb site marketed as the new home for an 'onshoring' drugmaker

Hopewell campus
Bristol Myers Squibb's former Hopewell, New Jersey, site currently houses PTC Therapeutics. (Bristol Myers Squibb)

As pandemic lockdowns begin to ease, the U.S. government has shown some interest—and deep pockets—in bringing drugmakers' supply chains stateside to bolster supplies during a future health emergency. Now, a New Jersey site recently owned by a Big Pharma could be the site of one drugmaker's "onshoring" ambitions.

A 433-acre, former Bristol Myers Squibb R&D and manufacturing campus in Hopewell, New Jersey, could be a new home for drugmakers looking to bring their operations back stateside, according to Lincoln Equities Group, the private equity firm that snared the site from Bristol in a June 16 deal.

Lincoln is putting the former Bristol site on the market with a specifically nationalist bent, angling for drugmakers that are part of the U.S. government's efforts to build onshore production of pandemic-related drugs.

"Given the current public health crisis, we anticipate pharmaceutical and life sciences manufacturers to consider ‘reshoring’ and expanding operations in the U.S.,” Lincoln President Joel Bergstein said in a release.

RELATED: U.S. seeks to 'onshore' drug production in response to COVID-19. Is pharma even interested?

The former Bristol site, just miles from Princeton University, operates on 1.2 million square feet of land and currently houses PTC Therapeutics, which occupies over 200,000 square feet, including a biologics production facility and R&D buildings, Lincoln said.

The campus features nine buildings consisting of "state-of-the-art clinical manufacturing, plug-and-play biological laboratories and office space, plus freestanding R&D support space, storage facilities and a global data and command center," Lincoln said. The campus has the capacity to add an additional 35 acres, bringing its total footprint to 2.8 million square feet.

Bristol announced the "multi-year closure" of the Hopewell site in 2016 as part of an "evolution" of its footprint based around new facilities in Lawrenceville and New Brunswick, New Jersey.

“These important changes to our U.S. geographic footprint will ensure we have the structural, operational and financial flexibility to deliver as effectively as possible on our mission for patients,” Bristol CEO Giovanni Caforio said at the time.

Lincoln said it could not disclose the financial terms of the deal.

RELATED: PTC Therapeutics gears up gene therapy capacity in lease deal with Bristol Myers

PTC agreed to take out a long-term lease at the facility in August as the drugmaker neared FDA filings for two new products: risdiplam, a small-molecule treatment for spinal muscular atrophy that will compete with Biogen's Spinraza, and its first gene therapy, which targets AADC deficiency, a rare enzyme disorder.

The FDA agreed to a priority review for risdiplam in November.

Lincoln's push to explicitly market Bristol's former campus toward the government's desire for onshore manufacturing comes as the some of the industry's biggest players have pushed back against congressional efforts to incentivize the move.

Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), the industry's biggest lobbying group, has pushed back against congressional support for a supply chain shake-up. In an email to Fierce Pharma in early June, the lobbying group said legislation to move manufacturing stateside could cause significant disruptions in U.S. supply.

"While we support efforts to foster more manufacturing in the United States, moving all manufacturing here is impractical and likely not feasible," a PhRMA spokesperson said in the email. "Policymakers must take a long-term, more holistic look at global pharmaceutical manufacturing supply chains before jumping to rash proposals that may cause significant disruptions to the U.S. supply of medicines."

RELATED: As U.S. calls for stateside manufacturing, antibiotic maker Paratek gambles on 'onshoring' effort

Companies such as antibiotics maker Paratek, however, have agreed to make the shift to the U.S.—most commonly with financial backing from the government.

Earlier this month, Paratek told Fierce Pharma it would be kick-starting a three-year plan to build a government-funded, second supply chain in the U.S. in an effort to flesh out the nation's strategic supply of pandemic response drugs.

The U.S. government, through its Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), has dumped $285 million into helping Paratek build the U.S. supply line, which will stand apart from its current manufacturing network in Europe, CEO Evan Loh said.

RELATED: Trump picks little-known U.S. firm to spearhead $354M pandemic drug pact

In late May, BARDA also floated a four-year, $354 million contract with a fledgling company, Virginia-based Phlow Corporation, to build a generic medicine and API plant in Richmond, Virginia, and supply COVID-19 treatments produced there.

That deal can be expanded up to 10 years and to a total of $812 million, making it among the largest in BARDA's history.

Baltimore-based Emergent BioSolutions also won a $628 million deal with the government in early June to scale production of targeted COVID-19 vaccine candidates to make "tens to hundreds of millions" of doses available through 2021, the CDMO said.

Editor's Note: This story has been updated.

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