Ajinomoto Wins ‘Top-Tier’ Pharma Licensee; Plans to Buy Althea Technologies

By Gareth Macdonald

- Last updated on GMT

Ajinomoto wins ‘top-tier’ Pharma licensee; plans to buy Althea Technologies
Ajinomoto wins ‘top-tier’ Pharma licensee; plans to buy Althea Technologies

Related tags: Amino acid, Protein

Ajinomoto says its flexible approach to tech licensing differs from rivals who are more focused on locking customers into manufacturing services contracts.

Earlier this week Ajinomoto North America – the US arm of the Japanese fine chemicals and amino acids supplier – said a top-tier, global pharmaceutical firm had licensed its Cornyebacterium glutamicum​-based protein expression technology after successful trials.

An Ajinomoto spokeswoman declined to name the licensee but did tell in-Pharmatechnologist.com the tech – known as Corynex – will be used for “development through to commercial production​” adding that “the license has flexibility that allows use and or production in a number of locations​.”

She explained that the deal was struck after Ajinomoto showed it could use the Corynex platform – in which proteins are secreted rather than harvested after cell lysis - to improve production yields of molecules that had previously been hard to make using traditional microbial expression systems.

Expression systems are not capable of expressing every possible protein, we offer a competitive solution to customers with proteins that have been difficult to express." 

She added that "We also offer a more flexible license options compared to the Lonza’s of the world who want to lock you in to production in their facility and their development programs​.”

Manufacturing business

But while the latest Corynex license may not be about locking customers in to manufacturing deals, Ajinomoto still sees contract pharmaceutical production as an important area as evidenced by its announcement of plans to buy US CDMO Althea Technologies earlier today.

The Althea deal – financial terms of which were not disclosed – is designed to expand Ajinomoto’s “biopharmaceuticals manufacturing in the US market and strengthen our advanced biomedical businesses​," according to CEO Masatoshi Ito.

California -based Althea operates a manufacturing facility in San Diego at which it provides cGMP production, analytical development, aseptic vial and syringe filling and protein delivery technology development services.

The acquisition, which is expected to close in April, follows just a few days after Tokyo-headquartered Ajinomoto announced its intention to double manufacturing capacity at its amino acid facility in Shanghai, China by investing 1.3bn yen ($13m).

The firm said the aim is to help it meet growing demand from the pharmaceutical and food industries in China and across Asia.  

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