Boston-area pharma plant goes up for auction to pay debts

A Boston-area plant that French drugmaker Ipsen ($IPN) had poured tens of millions of dollars into will be included in an auction of assets now that its partner, Inspiration Biopharmaceuticals, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

Ipsen announced the legal maneuver today and said that it would have to write off $153 million of its investment in the effort to bring a new hemophilia treatment to market. Ipsen owns 40% of the partnership and holds $200 million in convertible bonds as part of the arrangement. It is kicking in more than $18 million in debtor-in-possession financing to keep Inspiration operational while the asset sale can be arranged "to a third party" through bankruptcy court.

U.S. biotech Inspiration had been teeing up a launch of the OBI-1, a recombinant porcine factor VIII (rpFVIII) for the treatment of hemophilia A with inhibitors, and IB1001, a recombinant factor IX (rFIX) for the treatment of hemophilia B. Then in July, the FDA put a clinical hold on the program after Inspiration found that some patients developed antibodies to the Chinese Hamster Ovary protein in IB1001. The rights to those drugs will be the the assets in the sale, along with Ipsen's plant in Milford, MA, where the drugs were made.

That is complicated a bit by the fact that the facility houses both the manufacturing operations and Ipsen's U.S. R&D operations. Ipsen spokesman Didier Veron said Wednesday in an email to FiercePharmaManufacturing that Ipsen will move its R&D operations elsewhere in Boston. "We announced today that we agreed to include our hemophilia assets, including our OBI-1 industrial facility in Milford, in the sale process under certain conditions. However we want to keep our R&D activities in the U.S. Therefore our Milford R&D activities will be relocated to leased facility in Massachusetts as it is not a feasible business option to share the Milford site." He said splitting the site was logistically impossible given the layout requires R&D and manufacturing to share some space and infrastructure, as well as utilities.

The company in 2007 announced it would invest $15 million to double the size of the Milford facility to about 76,000 square feet for both development and manufacturing. Just last December, it said another $45 million would be invested in the site to build a new three-story, 62,000-square-foot building while completely renovating one of the site's two existing buildings, in support of its R&D work. Design was in process and construction was slated to get under way this year and be completed in 2014. Veron did not know how far that project had progressed before the bankruptcy filing and decision to sell the facility or how many employees might be affected.

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