Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS) has signed a definitive purchase agreement to divest its small-molecule active pharmaceutical ingredient production facility in Swords, Ireland, to South Korean firm SK Biotek.

The sale is part of BMS’ strategy to shift its manufacturing focus in Ireland to reflect a growing biologics portfolio with ongoing investment in the Cruiserath biologics facility, Dublin.

The Swords facility produces active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) for a wide range of medicines, including the company’s and Pfizer’s Eliquis.

Over the years, the manufacturing unit has produced medicines that have allowed millions of people to fight against serious diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, hepatitis, HIV / AIDS and psychiatric disorders.

Under the deal, SK Biotek will operate the plant as a stand-alone contract development manufacturing organisation (CDMO).

"This transaction is an important step to achieve our goal of becoming a leading global CDMO."

The company plans to add marketing, and research and development (R&D) operations, as well as invest in upgrades to bring additional capacity to the facility.

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SK Biotek chief executive officer Dr Junku Park said: “This transaction is an important step to achieve our goal of becoming a leading global CDMO.

“It allows us to enhance technological and manufacturing capacity and build long-term partnerships with existing and new customers. We have chosen to invest in Ireland because of the welcoming business environment and the exceptionally talented workforce, and we look forward to growing our presence in Swords in the coming years.”

The two companies will manage a smooth transition to ensure a reliable supply of medicines to customers and patients.

Subject to SK Biotek’s receipt of certain environmental permits in addition to other customary closing conditions, the transaction is expected to close by the fourth quarter of this year.