UPDATED: Sun unloading two U.S. plants to Chinese CRO

Scientists handling blue liquid in test tube and flask
Sun Pharma

Since it bought out Ranbaxy Laboratories last year, Sun Pharma has been in the process of trimming back its manufacturing network of nearly 50 plants to a more manageable and efficient number. It now has a deal to unload two more facilities in the U.S.  

India’s largest drugmaker said on Saturday that it would sell plants in Philadelphia, PA, and Aurora, IL, to Frontida BioPharm. Frontida, owned by a group of investors, is a newly formed CDMO that is an affiliate company to Frontage Laboratories. Frontage is a long-standing CRO in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and China that is controlled by Chinese CRO Hangzhou Tigermed.

The financing terms were kept under wraps, but Sun said that Frontida is also buying 15 products and will continue to manufacture “certain products for Sun Pharma at these facilities on a contract basis for a predetermined period.” Frontida is offering jobs to all of the production, quality and administrative employees at the sites.

Frontida BioPharm and Frontage Laboratories CEO Song Li said in Frontage’s own announcement that “We are pleased to complete this transaction with Sun and partner with them in manufacturing some of their key products. The sites have great, experienced staff that will serve as a foundation to Frontida’s launch of contract development and manufacturing services.”

In December, Sun agreed to sell a formulation plant in Bryan, OH, to Nostrum Laboratories, a Kansas City, MO-based generics maker. Sun had picked that plant up in 2005 from Valeant Pharmaceuticals ($VRX). Sun has also said that by the end of the year it will close a plant in Tipperary, Ireland, and lay off about 100 employees after being unable to find a buyer for the facility.

While selling off some plants, Sun also has its hands full getting a handful of facilities in India back into the good graces of the FDA. Four of the plants it inherited in its $4 billion buyout of Ranbaxy had been banned by the FDA several years ago because of ongoing manufacturing problems. Sun is also working to get a legacy plant in Halol back into shape. That plant is one of the drugmaker’s key facilities for its U.S. meds, and the production interruption has taken a toll on the finances of the Indian company.

- get the Sun release
- here’s the Frontage release

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Editor's Note: The story was updated to clarify the relationship of Frontida and Frontage Laboratories.