Pearl of the Orient

Bristol-Myers Squibb’s newest ‘String of Pearls’ addition is Chinese outsourcing firm WuXi PharmaTech, which will build a stability testing facility for BMS in China

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SHANGHAI—Early March saw the R&D division of Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. (BMS) inking a deal that will see WuXi PharmaTech, an outsourcing company with expertise in discovery chemistry based here, assist the company with its drug analysis efforts.

Specifically, the partners will conduct stability studies of small-molecule new chemical entities to support global marketing applications. The agreement also calls for WuXi to build, equip and operate a dedicated, fully cGMP-compliant, 25,000 square-foot analytical testing facility in Shanghai to store and test stability samples and to perform other services for BMS.

In addition, WuXi will also employ a staff for stability testing, sample management, analytical testing, pharmaceutical science, quality assurance, metrology and other services, including stability data reporting in support of all global dossier submissions by BMS.

Financial terms of this alliance were not released, and both companies declined to elaborate on the studies they will conduct or the facility that will be built. Dr. Mark Powell, senior vice president of non-clinical development for Mark Powell, said in a press release that the alliance is an example of BMS' R&D organization executing the company's "BioPharma model" by "using selective integration to leverage the strengths and talents of both Bristol-Myers Squibb and a valued partner."

That model, which BMS calls the "String of Pearls" strategy, was launched in December 2007 to transform BMS into a biopharmaceutical company by buying biotech drug compounds or companies in priority disease areas.

In the contract research arena, BMS last June announced three-year agreements with contract research organizations ICON and Parexel for "joint strategic, operational and capability support" of the company's clinical development programs.

"WuXi PharmaTech is an important partner for Bristol-Myers Squibb's research and development organization," Powell stated.

Dr. Ge Li, WuXi's chairman and CEO, added in a formal statement that the Chinese firm has had a productive relationship with BMS for many years. Calling BMS "a valued customer," Li added: "We will continue to help them to improve their R&D productivity with our innovation-driven, cost-effective and fully integrated R&D service platform."

Established in 2000, WuXi offers a full range of discovery and development services for pharmaceuticals, development and testing services for biotherapeutics and medical devices and comprehensive toxicology services, in addition to manufacturing services for advanced intermediates and active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs), cell banking services and cGMP manufacturing for cellular therapeutics and combination/tissue-based products.

Buoyed by a payoff from a $1.6 billion acquisition bid last year by Charles River Laboratories International Inc. that went sour, WuXi recently reported that its fourth-quarter 2010 net revenue increased 88.6 million, up 20 percent over the same period in 2009. Li recently told investors that this will grow by 17 to 21 percent in 2011 as the firm continues to invest in its R&D service capabilities and manufacturing facilities.

"Growth in offshore outsourcing and in China's domestic pharmaceutical market will drive more and more R&D to China," Li told investors.

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