Targeting the market for enantiomerically pure drugs, SAFC, a custom manufacturing group within Sigma-Aldrich, has acquired Honeywell International's Iropharm unit in Arklow, Ireland.
Driving the move is SAFC's ambition to expand its active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) and intermediates manufacturing capacities to include single-enantiomer drugs.
The Iropharm facility, which brings in annual revenues of roughly $16m (€12.5m), is a US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) inspected, current good manufacturing practice (cGMP) site, with total reactor capacity of 90,000 liters.
The plant features one of the few commercial scale simulated moving bed (SMB) multi-column chromatographic separation units in the world.
Used to resolve optically active compounds from racemic mixtures into pure enantiomers, SMB capability is one of the fastest methods to obtain enantiomerically pure drugs, increasingly important as the demand for single-enantiomer drugs continues to grow.
"The acquisition of Iropharm fulfills our promise to add commercial-scale cGMP manufacturing capacity and continue our strategy of providing customers with state-of-the-art technologies to meet their custom API and intermediate needs," said Frank Wicks, president of SAFC.
"Because over 80 per cent of newly developed drugs are chiral drugs and Iropharm is a leading player in the global field of SMB custom manufacturing, this addition puts SAFC in an even stronger position to serve the pharmaceutical industry."
Details of the acquisition, which will be paid in cash, were not disclosed, but SAFC said current employees in good standing, including all of Iropharm's existing management team, would remain.
"This will be a good fit for both organizations, Iropharm has significant pharmaceutical and fine chemical manufacturing experience and will help secure SAFC's position as a serious contender in the commercial-scale custom cGMP synthesis market," said James Ennis, Iropharm Plant Manager.
"We look forward to partnering with SAFC's business development staff to leverage our manufacturing strengths for the SAFC organization."
SAFC's activities aim to compete with the current trend among contract manufacturing organisations to tap into niche markets such as this one, due to an overcapacity in the marketplace.
The number of recent investments in this area has led some industry observers to suggest that competing in this sector may soon become a challenge.
Nevertheless, the deal is the latest of several SAFC initiatives in the custom chemical business sector that it expects to drive its sales to over $400m and secure its position as a top 10 fine chemical company worldwide.
In February the company launched a supply solutions business which aims to combine its Specialties division with the manufacturing site that was acquired from Degussa last year.