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Thermo Fisher strikes again in viral vectors

Adds sites in Belgium with $875 million acquisition of Novasep’s business

by Rick Mullin
January 15, 2021


A photograph of a man pipetting in a viral vector production lab.
Credit: Novasep
With the acquisition, Thermo Fisher will get this large-scale viral-vector production site in Seneffe, Belgium.

Thermo Fisher Scientific has acquired the viral-vector manufacturing business of the French pharmaceutical services firm Novasep for approximately $875 million. The deal marks Thermo Fisher’s second major purchase of a viral-vector business following its purchase of Massachusetts-based Brammer Bio in 2019 for $1.7 billion.

The Novasep business provides viral-vector manufacturing services for vaccines and gene therapies at sites in Seneffe and Gosselies, Belgium. It employs about 400 and had sales last year of close to $100 million. Viral vectors such as adeno-associated virus (AAV) vectors are used in cell and gene therapy to deliver RNA and DNA into cells.

“Novasep’s viral vector business is an excellent strategic fit as Thermo Fisher continues to expand its capabilities for cell and gene vaccines and therapies globally,” Michel Lagarde, executive vice president of Thermo Fisher, says in a press release announcing the sale. The plants in Europe will complement Thermo Fisher’s four sites in the US, he adds.

Thermo Fisher says Novasep offers services to drug companies similar to those of its US facilities in cell culture manufacturing of a broad range of viral-vector types, including AAVs, adenoviruses, and lentiviruses. After acquiring Brammer, Thermo Fisher announced a $180 million project to more than double its Plainville, Massachusetts, operation and a similar expansion in Alachua, Florida. Its other US sites are in Lexington and Cambridge, Massachusetts.

For Novasep, the deal follows the announcement earlier this month that it is selling its chromatography equipment division to Sartorius. Novasep says it will focus on research and manufacturing services for small-molecule drugs. The company claims its small-molecule contract work has doubled over the past two years partly due to “re-shoring” efforts on the part of customers who have been supplied by producers in India and China.

James Bruno, who heads the consulting firm Chemical and Pharmaceutical Solutions, says Thermo Fisher is taking the idea of comprehensive pharmaceutical services to a new level. “They are beyond the one-stop shop,” Bruno says, noting that the company now offers small- and large-molecule manufacturing, final drug production, packaging and distribution, and a now-enlarged business in the cutting edge technology of viral vectors.

With its new focus on small molecules, Bruno says, Novasep can be seen as taking the opposite approach.



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