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Business

Porton buys chemistry service firm J-Star

Deal is latest purchase of an independent U.S. research company

by Jean-François Tremblay
January 31, 2017

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Credit: J-Star
J-Star’s operates contract research labs in South Plainfield, N.J.
Credit: J-Star
J-Star’s operates contract research labs in South Plainfield, N.J.

Porton Fine Chemicals, a Chinese pharmaceutical ingredients producer, has agreed to acquire the South Plainfield, N.J.-based contract research firm J-Star Research. The move is the latest in a spate of acquisitions of independent U.S. chemistry research and manufacturing organizations by larger service firms.

Formed in 1996, J-Star currently employs 47 people, most of them Ph.D. holders, the company says. Porton will pay up to $26 million for the firm, which is focused on early-phase clinical development of pharmaceutical chemicals. J-Star’s services encompass custom synthesis, process research, crystallization, and analytical services.

J-Star CEO Andrew Thompson says the planned sale creates “a perfect match connecting our customized development capability with Porton’s advanced manufacturing experience.”

Porton launched in 2005 to supply custom intermediate chemicals, mostly to large international drug firms such as Johnson & Johnson. Initially, Porton consisted of a manufacturing facility and a lab, both in Chongqing, southwest China. Its business grew rapidly. Porton listed on the Shenzhen stock exchange in 2014 and today claims 1,700 employees working at three sites in China.

In 2013, the firm opened a facility in Chongqing producing active pharmaceutical ingredients to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration’s current Good Manufacturing Practices standards. And last month, it opened a process development center in Cranbury, N.J., about a 30-minute drive from South Plainfield.

Porton’s deal for J-Star continues a trend of large pharmaceutical service firms acquiring independent U.S. providers of chemistry-related research and manufacturing services for the drug industry.

In January, Pharmaron, a Beijing-based contract research firm, bought Xceleron, a U.S. supplier of mass spectroscopy technology. Last June, Universal Display purchased the Delaware contract research firm Adesis. In April 2016, India’s Piramal Enterprises bought Ash Stevens, a Michigan-based contract manufacturer.

Also last year, Cambrex acquired North Carolina-based PharmaCore, and in 2015 Patheon purchased South Carolina’s Irix Pharmaceuticals.

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