Ajinomoto buying biologics CMO Althea

Japan's conglomerate Ajinomoto is giving its pharmaceutical operations a double boost of investment. The company is expanding an ingredient plant in China while joining a host of other companies expanding in biologics manufacturing.

Ajinomoto said it has a deal to buy Althea Technologies, a San Diego-based contract development and manufacturing organization that provides everything from production of microbial-derived recombinant proteins and plasmid DNA, vial and syringe filling and product manufacturing. Ajinomoto provided no terms for the deal, which the company said it should close in April.

"In combining Ajinomoto's experience in biotechnology, together with Althea's sophisticated technology, experienced personnel, and expertise in cGMP manufacturing, we aspire to expand our business for biopharmaceuticals manufacturing in the U.S. market and strengthen our advanced biomedical businesses," Ajinomoto CEO Masatoshi Ito said.

With development of biologic products accelerating, there has been a surge in investment in manufacturing capacity from Big Pharma to CMOs. Novartis ($NVS), for example, has a $500 million biologics manufacturing plant on tap for its campus in Singapore, while startup Innovent Biologics said it would invest $25 million to erect a biologics plant in Suzhou, China.

Ajinomoto's plant expansion is also in China. It says it will spend 1.3 billion JPY ($13.9 million) to double capacity of its amino acids plant in Shanghai to meet growing demand in Asia. It sells to both the food and the pharma industries. It expects to complete the project by October. While not providing capacity details, the company claims the expansion will make it the world leader in production of high quality amino acids. The plant, which was built in 1998, has 153 employees. 

- here's the acquisition release
- read the plant announcement 

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