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Asymchem to buy Snapdragon Chemistry for $58 million

Chinese pharmaceutical services firm gains US facility specializing in continuous manufacturing

by Rick Mullin
February 15, 2022


A photograph of a man in a laboratory standing in front of an experimental workstation that is fully equipped.
Credit: Snapdragon Chemistry
Matthew Bio is CEO of Snapdragon Chemistry, a process design consulting spun off in 2014 from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Asymchem, a China-based contract development and manufacturing organization (CDMO), has agreed to acquire Snapdragon Chemistry for $58 million. The drug services firm, based in Waltham, Massachusetts, specializes in flow-based continuous manufacturing.

The acquisition follows a 2020 investment by Asymchem in Snapdragon to support the US firm’s effort to build its first pharmaceutical chemical–production suites. The investment marked the beginning of a collaboration in which Asymchem aims to transition small-volume production from Snapdragon customers to its larger facilities in China.

Snapdragon—launched in 2014 as a spin-off from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology—focuses on active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) manufacturing technologies that employ flow-based retrosynthetic analysis and design techniques. The company operates a facility in Waltham and says it partially occupies a second building nearby where it expects to commission kilo-scale labs by April.

Snapdragon has worked with partners including Johnson Matthey and Amgen. In 2020 it received $700,000 from the US Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority to develop a continuous process for nucleotide triphosphates used to produce messenger RNA vaccines. Last year it received a $1.5 million grant from the US Defense Advanced Research Project Agency to develop continuous technology for making drug intermediates and fine chemicals.

“We believe continuous flow manufacturing is a revolutionary technology.” Asymchem CEO Hao Hong says in a press release announcing the deal. Asymchem has deployed continuous technologies at its facilities in China.

The deal will also provide Asymchem—which has a US business headquarters in North Carolina—with its first US plant, an asset currently in demand among European and Asian pharmaceutical services firms.

Porton, another Chinese pharmaceutical services firm, acquired J-Star Research in 2014 and has since expanded the US firm’s operations. WuXi AppTec, a large Chinese CDMO, announced last year that it plans to build a plant in Delaware by 2024.

James Bruno, president of the consulting firm Chemical and Pharmaceutical Solutions, sees the deal strengthening both Snapdragon and Asymchem. It will give Snapdragon financial support to expand its research group, better establishing the company as a contract manufacturing business. Meanwhile, it advances Asymchem’s efforts to deploy continuous process manufacturing, a technology that is emerging as a competitive advantage among CDMOs.

And Asymchem will gain access to drug companies that partner with Snapdragon, “maybe not for APIs, but at least for advanced intermediates,” Bruno says. “They can do development in the US and transfer it over to China.”

The deal is likely to raise Asymchem’s recognition in the US at a time when the government and industry are promoting efforts to bring pharmaceutical production back to the US, Bruno says. “They have some R&D people who are not based in China who came from major pharma,” he says. “These guys have some power behind them. Now they are going to have a technology boost that could really open doors for them.”


This story was updated on Feb. 15, 2022, to correct the year that Snapdragon Chemistry launched. It was 2014, not 2015.



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