WuXi Bio, busy building out ex-China production network, taps local CDMO for capacity boost

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Just last week, WuXi Bio said it would pick up a Pfizer biologics facility in China as the big pharma halts biosimilar production in the region. (Getty Images)

WuXi Biologics marked 2020 with gung-ho expansions as the China-based CDMO looked to beef up its operations in Europe and the U.S. Now, the company is turning back to its home country with a deal for a homegrown CDMO.

WuXi Biologics locked up an agreement to buy more than 90% of CMAB, a Suzhou, China-based CDMO whose services run the gamut from cell-line and process development through clinical manufacturing.

The CMAB buyout, expected to close in the second quarter, will net WuXi Bio 7,000 liters more drug substance and drug product capacity for liquid and lyophilization projects across its global manufacturing network, the company said in a release. The acquisition will also bring on more than 250 CMAB staffers, WuXi Bio added.

WuXi Bio struck the deal with healthcare-focused investment firm CBC, alongside other groups like venture capital organization Ming Bioventures. Looking ahead, WuXi Bio and CBC plan to set up a strategic partnership to help CBC customers "discover, develop and manufacture biologics," the company said.

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The deals come shortly after WuXi Biologics said it would snap up Pfizer's 50,000-square-meter biologics site in Hangzhou, China, as the pharma giant presses pause on biosimilar manufacturing in the country. 

The Pfizer site, which has been operational since 2018, was originally set to make biosimilars of Roche's cancer blockbusters Avastin and Herceptin, plus copies of AbbVie’s immunology med Humira, but the Chinese biosim market has grown crowded after Chinese authorities in early 2019 approved the country’s first biosimilar. 

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WuXi Biologics, for its part, has been on an expansion tear since early last year. The company bookended 2020 by picking up Bayer facilities in Leverkusen and Wuppertal, Germany in January and December, respectively. 

In June, the company inked a 10-year lease agreement for a 66,000-square-foot clinical manufacturing facility in Cranbury, New Jersey, which followed a lease agreement in May for a 33,000-square-foot process development lab in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania. WuXi Bio is also plowing $60 million into a biologics plant in Massachusetts—set to become its first in the states.