Pfizer exits Chinese biosimilars space, selling plant to WuXi

As part of a “difficult decision” to halt its biosimilars programs in China, Pfizer is offloading its single-use biologics manufacturing plant in Hangzhou to WuXi Biologics.

Pfizer is one of the world’s largest biosimilar manufacturers, with seven commercialized products in the US alone (Inflectra, Retacrit, Nivestym, Nyvepria, Zirabev, Trazimera, Ruxience).

In 2016, Pfizer took aim at the Chinese market by investing $350 million in the Hangzhou Economic Development Area (HEDA) to set up a biosimilars manufacturing facility.

Five years on and the multinational has changed tact, exiting the Chinese biosimilars market and agreeing to sell the 50,000 square-meter plant to contract development and manufacturing organization (CDMO) WuXi Biologics for an undisclosed fee.

Image: iStock/Bubbers13

“After a comprehensive review of the biosimilars market and the company’s global manufacturing network, Pfizer has made a difficult decision to halt its biosimilars programs in China and to sell 100% of its equity interest in Pfizer Biologics (Hangzhou) Co. Ltd,” Pfizer said in a statement sent to BioProcess Insider.

Financial details of the deal have not been divulged, but the firm told us the sale of the plant is expected to close in the first half of 2021 whereupon WuXi Biologics will use the site to expand its local workforce and business operations to begin manufacturing biologics for its local and global partners.

While the sale signifies Pfizer’s exit from the Chinese biosimilar market, it does not signify a wider retreat from the region.

“In China, Pfizer has been operational for over 30 years and have introduced high-quality innovative drugs covering five major disease areas, including oncology, vaccines, anti-infectives, inflammation & immunology and rare disease. Our strong product lines are developed to meet the diverse needs of patients in every stage of life,” we were told.

“We remain committed to fulfill our purpose and cooperate with Chinese government and all sectors in the society to actively introduce breakthrough innovative drugs, seek innovative solutions for drug accessibility to serve the Chinese patients in time and help to realize the great goal of ‘Healthy China 2030.’

WuXi spending spree

The acquisition is the latest addition to WuXi Biologics’ manufacturing network, adding both drug substance and drug product manufacturing capacity to its ever-growing footprint.

The facility – which is based on Cytiva’s KUBio modular technology and equipped with 2 x 2,000 L single-use, bioreactors expandable to 4 x 2,000 L – will become WuXi Biologics’ twentieth drug substance and ninth drug product plant worldwide.

In China alone, the CDMO has another facility in Hangzhou offering microbial fermentation, along with operational sites in Shanghai, Wuxi, and Suzhou. A second site in Shanghai is expected to open this year, while sites in Shijiazhuang and Chengdu are set to begin operations in 2022 and 2023, respectively.

Outside of China, WuXi has expanded to Ireland, Singapore, the US (through sites in Massachusetts and New Jersey), and – most recently – Germany, through the acquisition of a plant from Bayer.

Update: The original story stated Pfizer had six commercialized biosimilars in the US, when in fact it has seven.

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