Novartis unloading sterile production facility to Lonza 

Lonza headquarters
CDMO Lonza's drug products services unit has picked up from Novartis its first sterile manufacturing facility, a clinical supply and fill-and-finish operation. (Lonza)

Novartis, looking to the future, has been shedding some of its manufacturing operations from the past. Some from the recent past. 

The drugmaker is selling to Lonza a clinical supply sterile manufacturing and fill-and-finish facility in Stein, Switzerland, that is only 10 years old, Lonza announced. The deal is slated to close within a few months. 

Lonza, which like Novartis is headquartered in Basel, Switzerland, will take on the staff of the Novartis facility and will manufacture for Novartis the drug product currently produced there. The facility can handle liquid and lyophilized dosage forms for up to 200-L bulk volumes for clinical supply and commercial launch and has enough capacity for new clients, Lonza said.  

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This will be Lonza's first fill-and-finish facility capable of manufacturing sterile products for clinical and commercial launches since the CDMO opened its drug development operations at the end of 2016. 

“Launched just three years ago with a core team of experts, Lonza DPS has since expanded in line with customer demand,“ Hanns-Christian Mahler, who heads Drug Products Services for Lonza, said in a statement. “Upon closing, the new manufacturing facility in Stein will be our first sterile drug product fill and finish facility and will work in close synergy with our existing facility in the Stücki Park in Basel.”

RELATED: Novartis says it is ready to meet even 'unprecedented' demand for Zolgensma 

Novartis said it decided to sell the facility because the lines were underutilized.

The deal continues Novartis' campaign to tighten up its manufacturing operations and cut costs while it moves aggressively into gene therapies, which require entirely different kinds of manufacturing processes. Last year, the drugmaker closed or sold eight facilities and revamped another eight, cutting about 2,000 jobs. 

Just this month, the drugmaker sold a 400,000-square-foot production facility in Broomfield, Colorado, to a cannabidiol (CBD) producer. Mile High Labs paid Novartis $18.75 million for the facility, which it intends to use to make private-label CBD products. The plant was part of Sandoz, the generic drug unit that the Swiss drugmaker has been revamping in the face of a changing market in the U.S. for copycat drugs. 

Lonza has also been making adjustments in its manufacturing network as the industry moves away from solid-dose drugs to biologics and gene therapies. Lonza is carving out its Specialty Ingredients business as part of its effort to reorganize the slumping division. The move includes the elimination of about 130 jobs, the company said.

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