Morrisville biotech plant bought by Fujifilm

Staff WriterMarch 1, 2011 

Fujifilm is buying a facility in Morrisville that makes ingredients used in biotechnology drugs, expanding the Japanese photography company's foothold in the Triangle's pharmaceutical industry.

Fujifilm announced plans late Sunday to acquire a contract manufacturing subsidiary of Merck that includes Diosynth's 110,000-square-foot factory on 80 acres.

All of Diosynth's 370 local employees are expected to shift to Fujifilm when the deal closes in April, Merck spokeswoman Cheznee Johnson said.

The factory, which has changed corporate owners several times since it opened in 1995, makes products for pharmaceutical and biotech companies in the United States, Europe and Japan. Merck expects to remain a customer.

Merck acquired the Diosynth division in 2009 as part of its $49 billion purchase of rival Schering-Plough. Since then, Merck has been consolidating operations and cutting jobs to make that deal pay off.

Last year, Merck combined Diosynth with another biotech manufacturing facility in Billingham, England, to form the Merck BioManufacturing Network.

Fujifilm agreed to buy that division's assets, including both biotech manufacturing plants. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Fujifilm is seeking to offset slowing sales of its digital cameras and equipment for medical scans by expanding into drug development, especially for biotech medicines. Company officials couldn't be reached for comment Monday.

"Fujifilm is planting seeds in health care for future growth," Daiwa Securities Group analyst Kogo Horie told Bloomberg News. "The purchase makes sense."

It's not Fujifilm's first deal in this region. In 2008, a division of Fuji film bought Empiric Systems, a Morrisville company that developed software for radiology offices.

Merck, meanwhile, is trying to unload some assets to focus on fast-growing parts of its core drug business, including vaccines.

The New Jersey-based company continues to hire at its massive vaccine-manufacturing campus in Durham.

Officials expect to add 150 workers there this year, after hiring 230 people in 2010.

The Durham facility employs about 450 and is preparing to package and eventually grow vaccines to protect against chicken pox and other diseases.

Construction on several buildings is expected to finish in 2012, and officials anticipate the factory will win full regulatory approval in 2013.

alan.wolf@newsobserver.com or 919-829-4572

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