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Pharmaceuticals

BMS will sell Ireland plant to SK Biotek

Sale continues big pharma’s exit from small-molecule drug manufacturing

by Rick Mullin
June 21, 2017 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 95, ISSUE 26

Bristol-Myers Squibb has agreed to sell its small-molecule active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) plant in Swords, Ireland, to SK Biotek, a South Korean fine chemicals firm. The deal is expected to be completed by year-end, after which SK will continue to produce the site’s portfolio, including the API for Pfizer’s Eliquis, on a contract basis.

BMS says it will shift its manufacturing focus in Ireland to its facility in Cruiserath, where it makes biologic APIs.

SK Biotek, a division of the conglomerate SK Holdings, was established to produce drug intermediates in the 1990s and began to make APIs in 2009. The company, which emphasizes continuous process manufacturing, has stated its interest in growing through acquisition.

It plans to run the Swords facility as a stand-alone contract development and manufacturing organization (CDMO) and says it will add R&D as well as manufacturing capacity and staff at the site.

SK says it has supplied intermediates and API starting materials to BMS for about 10 years. “This transaction is an important step to achieve our goal of becoming a leading global CDMO,” says SK Biotek CEO Junku Park.

BMS’s sale of the Swords plant is in keeping with a steady trend by drugmakers to divest small-molecule manufacturing capacity, often to contractors such as SK. Major drug companies are shifting emphasis toward biologics, which are more likely to be manufactured in-house.

“Today’s agreement is an important step in the ongoing evolution of our manufacturing network to support the company’s innovative portfolio,” says Lou Schmukler, president of global product development and supply at BMS.

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