USDA backs Unilife’s US HQ construction

By Gareth Macdonald

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Syringe

Unilife wins US Department of Agriculture (USDA) as guarantor for new manufacturing facility and global headquarters in York, Pennsylvania, US.

The firm, which transferred​ from the Australian Stock Exchange to the NASDAQ earlier this year, said the USDA will guaranty $10m of the $18m mortgage it took out to fund the project.

The news means that, in addition to the $5.4 m in grants and loans from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Unilife already secured, the US government has committed to finance just under half of the construction costs.

CEO Alan Shortall said the backing “reflects [Unilife’s] status as a fast-growing Pennsylvania company that is committed to local high-skilled job creation​,” echoing comments by USDA State Director Tom Williams.

The USDA congratulates Unilife on its strong life science investment into central Pennsylvania, bringing with it high-skill jobs in a high-tech, fast growing market sector​.”

The USDA’s move will also be a confidence boost for the formerly Australian firm, whose recent financial performance has been less than ideal for a company in the midst of relocating to the other side of the world.

For the quarter ended June 30​, for example, it reported a 65 per cent drop in revenue and a loss of some $9.7 million. The USDA guaranty should, therefore, enable Unilife to comfortably complete the project.

Unifill industrialisation

Work on the 165,000 square foot York facility began in December last year as part of Unilife’s efforts to boost production capacity, particularly for its Unifill​ ready-to-fill safety syringe range.

The product, which was awarded a US patent late last year, is, according to Unilife, the first product of its kind to be specifically designed for the delivery of vaccines which will be a significant market according to most observers.

Research published by Kalorama Information suggested that increasing drug industry focus on vaccines and growing patient demand, will see the global vaccines market double in size and be worth around $39bn (€26bn) by 2013.

Unilife said the York plant will produce some 400m syringes a year, and added that it has already secured permission for a 100,000 ft extension that would expand capacity to its “optimal” 1bn target.

The firm, which is currently relocating operations from its US base in nearby Lewisberry, said construction of the new plant is on track to complete before the end of the year.

Global demand

Unilife also expects the wider global market for safety syringes to expand over the next few years as a result of both the type of drugs and biologics being developed and the need to improve patient and physician safety.

Spokeswoman Susan Carr-Hudgins told in-Pharmatechnologist that: “Healthcare markets around the world are being driven toward mandatory use of safety-enabled syringes.

This, she continued, coupled with the need for technologies that prevent needlestick injuries is driving global demand and making “market conditions very favorable for Unilife.”

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