UCB sells New York plant to Unither

Belgian drugmaker UCB opened a new biologics plant in September and has another plant going up in Switzerland, but the company says it is moving toward using contract manufacturers for its production needs. To that end, the company will sell a plant in Rochester, NY, then contract with the new owner for the products that are currently made there.

The drugmaker said Wednesday it had struck a deal with French CMO Unither Pharmaceuticals to buy the plant. Unither intends to keep the 250 UCB employees and 50 contract workers and has a 6-year deal with UCB to make its products. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but in its own release Unither said it intended to add blow-fill-seal and stick-pack technologies as soon as possible. The sale is expected to close in the fourth quarter. UCB said the transaction was in line with its "strategy to increasingly utilize a network of trusted partners for its mass manufacturing activities."

UCB has done this before. It sold plants in Germany and Italy to CMO Aesica Pharmaceuticals in 2011. At the same time, UCB has been adding manufacturing capacity of its own. In September the Belgian drugmaker completed a €65 million ($84.8 million) biologics plant to take more control over the development and manufacturing of its biologics products. The facility in Braine-l'Alleud, Belgium, has a 528-gallon bioreactor and three 106-gallon production bioreactors. This plant was designed so that a second 528-gallon bioreactor can be added if demand calls for it.

And in 2011, the company announced plans to spend €250 million on a new manufacturing plant in Switzerland to make sure it can keep up with demand for its rheumatoid arthritis and Crohn's disease drug Cimzia. The company said it needed the plant to supplement production from Lonza and other contract manufacturers, to meet growing demand for the drug. It expects sales of Cimzia to hit €1.5 billion by 2010. That plant is slated to go online in 2015.

- here's the UCB release
- here's the Unither Pharmaceuticals release