"Our strategy is to buy a more "niche" capability in the US, which would be more focused on early phase production," Michael Fernandes, head of custom manufacturing at Nicholas Piramal, told Outsourcing-Pharma.com
"The objective is to have a more technology driven asset in the US."
Fernandes said the company is planning to spend between $20m (€15m) and $200m depending on the nature of the opportunity.
"We are currently looking at different options and we expect to find a facility in the next 18 months," said Fernandes.
NPIL's potential investment is part of its strategy to push its custom manufacturing business, which ranges from active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) and intermediate development and manufacturing into final dosage forms, following its acquisition of Avecia's Pharmaceuticals business in December 2005 and of Pfizer's manufacturing facility in Morpeth in June 2006.
The company currently relies on its facilities in Canada, India and in the UK to meet the US market demand.
Worldwide revenues for pharmaceutical industry contract manufacturing and research services are expected to grow at an average annual rate of 10 per cent to reach $168bn by 2009, according to analysts at Frost & Sullivan.
Within this total, the global market for contract manufacturing of prescription drugs is estimated to increase from a value of $26bn to $44bn.
Contributing to this boom is the Asian region which has recently been challenging the US and Europe's traditional supremacy of the global pharmaceutical contract manufacturing market.
According to a recent F&S report, India and China could potentially account for 35 percent to 40 percent of the outsourced market share for APIs, finished dosage formulations and intermediates.
Generally, CMOs operate only in certain segments - intermediates, APIs or formulations - but NPIL is seeking to join the rank of the few players offering the entire spectrum of services.
The company's plan is to "integrate manufacturing capability in India with acquired European and North American centres of excellence in early-phase technologies and production assets."
NPIL said it sees custom manufacturing to contribute 50 per cent of its revenues by 2010.