Pfizer lays down its hand on Chinese biosims, offloading its 3-year-old plant to WuXi Biologics as competition grows
Pfizer is in downsizing mode after a hefty spinoff of its Upjohn generics unit and a full-scale pivot toward branded meds. That move left Pfizer’s biosim unit in limbo, and now the drugmaker is making an early exit from the Chinese market as it faces a slate of unexpected competitors.
Pfizer has effectively bailed on its shot at the Chinese biosimilars market by offloading its three-year-old plant in Hangzhou to WuXi Biologics, the Chinese firm said earlier this week.
Pfizer initially planted $350 million into the Hangzhou site back in 2016 as part of plan to create copycats of Roche’s Avastin and Herceptin as well as AbbVie’s Humira. But Pfizer was mostly beaten to the punch after Fosun Pharma cracked the market open with China’s first approved biosim, a copy of Roche’s Rituxan, back in February 2019.
In the following year, two Humira copies also hit the market from domestic drugmakers Henlius and Innovent Biologics. Sunshine Guojian Pharmaceutical scored an approval for its copy of Herceptin, and Innovent also won nods for its versions of Avastin and Rituxan.
With so many players flooding the market, Pfizer has chosen to take a back seat in that emerging market as it looks to a future without its Upjohn generics unit after a spinoff and merger with Mylan last year.
Meanwhile, WuXi Biologics will pick up the plant, which it says houses two 538,000-square-foot facilities, with two 2000-liter single-use bioreactors, room to double in size and capacity for fill-finish. WuXi expects to close the deal in the first half of the year and will absorb Pfizer’s workforce to start producing shortly after closing, the company said in a statement.
Riding a hot hand in biologics, WuXi has seen rapid expansion in recent years and closed another deal close on the heels of its pending transaction with Pfizer.
On Thursday, WuXi announced it would acquire China’s investment firm CBC Group and subsidiary Ming Bioventures, which would give WuXi 90% controlling stake in CMAB Biopharma Group. The buyout comes with up to 7,000 liters of drug capacity and a global network of 250 employees, the company said in a release.
Back in December, WuXi unveiled plans to drop $183.3 million to acquire Bayer’s 330,000 square-foot drug substance facility in Wuppertal, Germany, as it seeks to enhance a supply network of Covid-19 vaccines and other biologics. The newest facility will also add to WuXi’s “global dual sourcing” strategy to add redundancy into its supply chain, CEO Chris Chen said at the time.
The facility houses three 1,000-liter perfusion reactors for biologics as well as six 1,000-liter fed-batch bioreactors, WuXi said. Those two manufacturing lines will include independent downstream suites, according to a release.