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Hovione to invest $170 million across three sites

CDMO Hovione used CPhI Worldwide 2021 in Milan to announce plans to invest $170 million over the years 2020-2022 to expand both capacities and capabilities at three sites in Portugal, Ireland, and New Jersey. About 300 jobs will be created as a result. These reflect its increasing focus on spray drying, high potency and particle engineering.

At its original site at Loures, near Lisbon, Hovione is in the process of starting operations in its most recent facility, which comprises Hastelloy and glass-lined reactors and will add 90 m3 of capacity for APIs. The investment will also increase HPAPI capacity and the building is also set out to accommodate a new commercial spray dryer.

Loures had almost no space available for expansion and the site was “reorganised dramatically” to accommodate the new building, according to CEO Guy Villax. A new building went up on the periphery to accommodate eight QC laboratories, canteens, offices and training rooms. Even so, the new facility represents “the last large space for capacity growth” at the site.

The site at Cork, Ireland, will also be upgraded for HPAPI production and will also receive a commercial spray dryer to “facilitate onboarding of drug substance manufacturing projects of all sizes”, according to Jean-Luc Herbeaux, who joined as COO just before lockdown and heads sales, marketing, HR and R&D. This investment, he added, “will create an ecosystem in which large customer projects with unique technologies can find a home by connecting to the existing infrastructure and equipment”.

The company has also just secured a 2,900m2 building in walking distance from its current facility in East Windsor, New Jersey. Two new commercial spray dryers will be installed by 2023. Further investments are to follow to solidify the API-particle-drug product offer for customers in the US, as an adjoining piece of land is also available and the FDA has indicated that they will be considered as a single site. Villax said that he expects employment there to go from 150 now to 500 with all this expansion. In the longer term, it will need more space elsewhere in the US.

All of the planned investments are at existing sites and no M&A activity is envisaged. This, said Herbeaux, has the advantage of being able to design its assets to suit its purposes. “The focus is on facilitating the speeding-up of the development process and drug products by providing API, particle engineering and tableting services at each site so that customers can have an integrated project at one site if they choose.”

The totals invested at each site are not being disclosed, but Herbeaux indicated that a rough division would be 40% in Portugal, 40% in New Jersey and 20% in Cork. The company also has a site in Macau, which is dedicated to generics and does not form part of this investment cycle.

“In addition to continuing to invest in capabilities, Hovione is also going to be changing in terms of its personality and becoming more like its customers,” said Villax. It will therefore grow its footprint more in the US than other areas, while also boosting its management capability to deal with the increasing complexity of its work and retain the best people.

Hovione reached €300 million in sales for the first time in 2020 and expects to surpass €400 million this year, with further double-digit growth continuing in the coming years, as it has for nearly 25 years. It sees particularly strong demand for the technologies it offers to address solubility issues in APIs. During the past five years, Villax added, Hovione has stood behind three to four NDA approvals each year out of a typical total of 40-60/year. “This is quite a high share, especially if you think that half of those are small molecules,” he said. This number is a KPI for the company going forward.

The company focus, Villax continued, will not be affected by the ongoing restructuring of the CDMO sector by private equity. Its work, he said, “requires a long-term vision, because these are projects that take time – longer than some people’s marriages!”

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