After several years of reticence, attendees of the fine and custom chemical manufacturing trade show Informex, held last week in San Francisco, were finally comfortable with admitting that business is looking healthy.
The first signs of a turnaround surfaced in 2005, and more substantial improvement arrived last year, according to James Bruno, director of the consulting firm Chemical & Pharmaceutical Solutions. "The year 2007 is going to be a good year for the industry—a great year, even, for the strong companies," he said. "Manufacturers are happy for a change."
The upbeat attitude stems from the combined effect of a healthier pipeline for pharmaceutical industry customers, ongoing manufacturing rationalization among big drug companies, and a round of restructuring within the fine chemicals industry itself.
"The market is continuing to improve, and the general macro trends in pharma are favorable to us," said Joe Principe, Degussa's vice president for global business development. Big drug companies aren't radically changing their approaches to outsourcing, but they are becoming more open to pushing bigger portions of their manufacturing to partners, he added.
With the improving environment, companies are starting to reinvest in their businesses.
Cambrex, which recently completed the sale of its bioproducts business to Lonza, unveiled two investments that will support its new focus on making small-molecule active pharmaceutical ingredients. The company is expanding capacity to make highly potent APIs at its Charles City, Iowa, facility. A new unit will house five process development and kilo-lab suites for larger-than-bench-scale reactions, as well as upgraded analytical and quality control capabilities. Upon completion in early 2008, the site will have room for up to 40 additional scientists and engineers.
Cambrex is also adding a midsized API plant at its Karlskoga, Sweden, site. The project, scheduled for completion in early 2009, will support late-stage clinical projects.
Excelsyn announced a three-phase, $10 million expansion program at its Holywell, England, facility to support kilo- and pilot-scale API production. In the first phase, to be completed this year, the company will add small skid-mounted reactors. A suite with an enhanced clean room and 100 kg of reactor capacity is scheduled to open in 2008.
NPIL Pharma, a division of India's Nicholas Piramal, used the show to debut a formulations service for all phases of drug development. The service entailed a $50 million investment at facilities in the U.K. and India. The firm is also looking to add "the missing piece from the armory": the ability to provide similar formulation services in North America, said R. Ananthanarayanan, president and director of NPIL.
Meanwhile, Almac Sciences and BioCatalytics have joined to develop new processes for making chiral intermediates and APIs. Almac will scale up reactions using proprietary enzyme catalysts developed by Biocatalytics. Multiple projects are already under way, said BioCatalytics CEO David Rozell, with an initial focus on stereoselective reductions for chiral syntheses.