Lonza's biopharma focus intensified towards end of 2014

By Gareth Macdonald

- Last updated on GMT

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Lonza's biologics plant in Portsmouth, US - expanded B-MS deal helped fill capacity
Lonza's biologics plant in Portsmouth, US - expanded B-MS deal helped fill capacity
Lonza signed a flurry of biopharma-related deals and launched a number of drug industry services in the final quarter of 2014 as its efforts to focus on pharma intensified.

This time last year​, Lonza said biopharma would be its target market, citing an upswing in drug industry outsourcing as well as low cost competition for its chemicals business, the strength of the Swiss franc and soaring raw material costs as the basis for the plan.

This strategy – which included a services agreement with companies in Index Ventures investment portfolio​ - helped it to increase biotech and pharma revenues 10% to CHF674, which played a significant part in boosting first half profits​.

In the months since Lonza had a rougher ride, although not as a result of its pharma business.

In October​, for example, the Swiss contractor cut its full year revenue growth forecast below 5% it had previous predicted citing lower demand for water treatment products. The announcement saw its share price fall 8.5%, which was the largest decline in three years.

Lonza also said it had abandoned plans to sell its wood treatment business, which generates annual revenues of CHF300m, explaining that offers for the business were not sufficient.

Despite this, or perhaps because of it, Lonza’s efforts to build in biopharma have continued.

In September, Lonza launched a vaccine design and development service explaining that pooling its in silico ​and in vitro​ offerings in this area of research will accelerate development and help developers predict immune response more effectively.

In October​, US drug major Bristol Myers Squibb (B-MS) said it had expanded its biologics manufacturing contract with Lonza, under which the Swiss firm produces the active ingredient for rheumatoid arthritis drug Orencia (abatacept) and other developmental biologics.

At the time B-MS said the expansion would help it meet “anticipated demand for our commercial biologics portfolio and prepare to bring late-stage clinical assets to patients​.”

Also that month the Swiss firm rolled out a microreactor-based active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) production platform​ and was granted a new US patent for its ResistAid larch arabinogalactan related to its ability to boost immune response to vaccines.

For Lonza the expanded deal also helped utilise capacity at its manufacturing facility in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, US which had been the subject of concerns following the collapse of the Swiss firm’s partnership with Teva.

In November, Lonza said it had been hired to make Sunshine Biopharma’s anticancer candidate Adva-27a. Initial manufacture will be carried out at the Swiss contractor’s plant in Nansha China from while subsequent steps will be conducted at its Visp cytotoxics facility.

November also saw Lonza officially open a new niacinamide production facility in Nansha. The plant, which began production operations last July, serves the drug API sector as well as the supplements, animal feed, preservatives and intermediates industries.

And, earlier this month US biotech firm Celladon said Lonza had helped scale-up manufacturing process for its gene therapy heart failure treatment candidate Mydicar (AAV1/SERCA2a). The work was carried out at the latter’s site in Houston, Texas.

Lonza is due to report its full year results later this month.

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