Viatris in talks with West Virginia University on plan that could keep idled Morgantown factory afloat

Robert Coury
The potential West Virginia University transfer "is the absolute right next step to consider" for Viatris' now-idled facility in West Virginia, Executive Chairman Robert Coury said. (Viatris)

While Viatris didn't find a buyer in time to save the former Mylan plant it shuttered last month, the company says it's looking to secure "the next best possible future" for the West Virginia facility. 

To see that mission through, Viatris is in talks with West Virginia University (WVU) on a memorandum of understanding that could see the school take charge of the Morgantown plant, which employed more than 1,400 people and operated for decades until its closure July 31.

Details on the potential WVU transfer, which Viatris disclosed in an emailed press release, were slim. It isn't immediately clear what WVU plans to do with the factory should the deal go through. 

Given the site's location and its potential future uses, not to mention possible job opportunities, "we determined that pursuing formal discussions at this time with WVU and its affiliates is the absolute right next step to consider," Robert Coury, executive chairman at Viatris, said in a statement.

Viatris will remain a "significant" employer in Morgantown, thanks in part to an R&D center it also operates there, Coury added.

The company, which formed as a result of the merger between Mylan and Pfizer's Upjohn unit, said it worked "diligently" to find a potential buyer before shuttering the site. It's still open to offers but so far has received "no such viable proposals."

This is the second possible lifeline the plant has received in as many weeks, though it's hard to say whether either option will keep the facility afloat. 

RELATED: Viatris shows no signs of growing pains in its 'trough year,' but one analyst has longer-term worries

Separate from the possible WVU deal, the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) has blessed the facility with critical infrastructure designation, Delegate Barbara Evans Fleischauer, D-Monongalia, told local radio station WAJR last week. That could allow the U.S. government to work with Viatris or another company to continue making drugs there.

It was a similar story earlier this year in Bristol, Tennessee, where CISA determined a Neopharma factory would keep its critical infrastructure designation post-pandemic. That facility is the only U.S. plant equipped for the full production of penicillin, Tennessee news outlet WHJL reported in February.

RELATED: Viatris, Biocon snare historic interchangeability tag in diabetes for Lantus biosimilar

Meanwhile, Viatris has started its independent operations on strong footing. Earlier this week, the company reported second-quarter revenues of $4.58 billion, exceeding the Wall Street consensus of $4.41 billion. Thanks to that performance, the company raised its full-year revenue forecast to a range of $17.5 billion to $17.9 billion. 

Further, the company's Semglee recently passed muster with the FDA as the first interchangeable insulin biosimilar. The drug references Sanofi’s blockbuster diabetes med Lantus, and its interchangeability tag means pharmacists can substitute the drug for Sanofi's branded insulin at the counter without a prescription.