Lonza takes parenteral control through Novartis plant buy and contract

CDMO Lonza has acquired a fill & finish facility in Switzerland from big pharma firm Novartis it says boosts its end-to-end offering.

The deal sees contract development and manufacturing organization (CDMO) Lonza take over the reins at fellow Swiss firm Novartis’ sterile, multi-product drug product facility in Stein. Lonza will retain operational and management staff at the site and manufacture clinical drug product for Novartis. Financial details have not been disclosed.

“The facility can handle liquid and lyophilized dosage forms for up to 200 L bulk volumes and we plan to add capabilities for filled syringes in the near future,” Hanns-Christian Mahler, head of Drug Product Services at Lonza Pharma & Biotech, told Bioprocess Insider.

Lonza will acquire the fill/finish plant in Stein, Switzerland from Novartis

“We can’t comment on the number of batches/vials but our goal is to significantly increase the output of the facility. Initially, a portion of the capacity will be used by Novartis but we also plan to start projects for other customers as soon as we close the acquisition deal.”

End-to-end offering

“Part of our strategy has been to complete our end-to-end offering – from the gene/molecule to the end product – because we see that working with a single supplier is a real added value for customers, particularly the smaller companies,” Mahler explained.

For small molecules, Lonza did this through its acquisition of Capsugel, but the CDMO has taken a more organic route to grow its parenteral drug product services: “Firstly establishing and gradually expanding our pre-clinical, clinical and testing labs in Basel, Switzerland [in 2016] and now adding cGMP fill and finish in Stein.”

He added the CDMO has already worked on over 100 molecules for its customers, and with continued need for these services the firm intends to invest further.

“We will be adding additional filling lines as part of our Ibex Solutions in Visp, Switzerland,” said Mahler. “These are due online in 2021 and will add further capacity for commercial supply.”

CDMOs and Big Pharma

The news comes ten days after fellow CDMO Catalent acquired a fill & finish facility from another big pharma, Bristol-Myers Squibb. Similarly, Catalent will take on the former big pharma owner as a customer as it expands its drug product services in Europe.

Of course, Lonza would not comment on Catalent’s deal or why Novartis chose to sell the Stein plant, but Mahler said that “as a CDMO Lonza can leverage the fact that we work with many customers and hence optimize assets and balance economy of scale.

“This is particularly relevant for a specific technology such as sterile fill & finish that requires significant CAPEX and expertise.”