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Volume 87 Issue 5 | p. 8 | News of The Week
Issue Date: February 2, 2009

Fine Chemicals Show Fortitude

Pharmaceutical chemical manufacturers at Informex are proceeding with investments
Department: Business
Credit: Rick Mullin/C&EN
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Credit: Rick Mullin/C&EN

THE FINE AND CUSTOM chemicals industry arrived at the annual Informex trade show in San Francisco late last month undaunted by the worldwide economic crisis. In a week when the world's largest drug company, Pfizer, announced a $68 billion bid to buy Wyeth (see page 7), many of the suppliers to the pharmaceutical industry indicated they, too, were ready to proceed with investments in capacity and, in at least one case, an acquisition.

Several exhibitors are moving forward with investments on new biologics ventures, including SAFC, which will spend $12 million on an expansion at its recently opened Carlsbad, Calif., biologics facility. The firm is currently investing $50 million on expanding operations, according to Gilles Cottier, president of SAFC, which is the fine chemicals division of Sigma Aldrich.

Novasep has invested $55 million over the past year in new highly potent active ingredients production at its plant in Le Mans, France, and at a new biologics manufacturing facility in Pompey, France. The company is pushing ahead with plans to apply its continuous-chromatography technology to processing monoclonal antibodies and other biologics.

Jean Blehaut, director of marketing and business development for Novasep, said that business remains secure with customers whose compounds are moving into the clinic. "There are products that have to advance," he said, "economic crisis or not."

Helsinn, the privately held Biasca, Switzerland-based contract manufacturer, announced its acquisition of Sapphire Therapeutics, in Bridgewater, N.J. The acquisition will give Helsinn access to three products in clinical trials. More important, according to Waldo Mossi, head of business development, the deal will give Helsinn a U.S.-based marketing and research organization, a longtime goal of the company. "Now is the time to buy," he said. "You will get a better deal now if you have liquidity."

Overall, the fine chemicals industry remains cautiously optimistic this year, according to Joseph Acker, president of the Synthetic Organic Chemical Manufacturers Association, the former sponsor of Informex. Acker said at a press briefing that a recent survey of SOCMA members indicates that 37% think the current state of the market for fine chemicals remains very good or excellent, compared with 54% last year. The same survey showed that 27% saw a net decrease in sales in 2008, a trend that started in 2007, when that figure rose from 13% to 18%.

The organizer, CMP Information, reported attendance at approximately 3,700 people on the first day. Last year's total attendance was 4,000 people.

 
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