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Solid growth and sizable investments will continue in the pharmaceutical services sector as contract manufacturers of active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) and drug intermediates move into a third year of navigating the unpredictable impact of the pandemic.
“Aside from what you can’t predict, it’s a very good time to be in contract services,” says Wayne Weiner, who heads the consulting firm PharmaTech Solutions. “It doesn’t seem the funding will dry up for biotechs, which are really driving a lot of the innovation.” And biotech innovators without production assets are increasingly bringing drug candidates to market themselves rather than licensing to larger drug companies, thus generating longer-term contracts with service firms, Weiner says.
But James Bruno, president of another consulting firm, Chemical and Pharmaceutical Solutions, sees a red flag. “I think we are going to be short on capacity all year,” he says. “Everybody seems to be booked.”
Managers at service firms agree that capacity constraint is a concern, and they point to continued investment in new capacity in response. Hovione, CordenPharma, and Pharmteco are among the companies with plans to add small-molecule API capacity.
Hovione is expanding on both sides of the Atlantic; the Portuguese firm is 2 years into a 3-year program that is expected to increase overall capacity by 25%. CordenPharma will expand clinical-scale peptide production in Frankfurt, Germany, and solid-dose drug output in Plankstadt, Germany. Pharmteco is expanding API production in South Korea and is adding capacity at a newly acquired cell and gene therapy site in France.
While service providers are likely to continue broadening their offerings beyond small-molecule API production in 2022, services for the emerging cell and gene therapy industry will develop on a parallel track and attract only a handful of the largest traditional firms. Cell and gene therapy is getting a lot of attention, Bruno says, but most of the investment in the drug services sector will continue to be in small-molecule production.