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Aptuit deal saves GSK's R&D unit in Verona

Published on 05/07/10 at 08:26am
GSK workers protest
Workers at at the facility took to the streets earlier this year to protest GSK's decision to close the site

GlaxoSmithKline has sold off its medicines research facility in Verona, Italy, to contract research and manufacturing service group Aptuit in a move which will save around 500 jobs at the site.

The Verona site was GSK's Centre for Excellence in Drug Discovery (CEDD) for neurosciences, conducting early-stage research into diseases such as anxiety, depression and pain.

The deal with Aptuit came into effect at the start of this month and is typical of similar agreements between big pharma companies and outsourcing specialists in recent times. The Connecticut, USA-based firm has taken over responsibility for the unit, but also has a contract to provide GSK with R&D services from the site.

Tim Tyson, chief executive of Aptuit, said the acquisition "centres around the new focus on strategic partnerships and increased outsourcing of R&D, and is not just a tactical addition to capacity". Verona becomes the 19th site in the outsourcing firm's network of facilities in North America, Europe and Asia-Pacific.

GSK's decision to close down the facility sparked demonstrations in the streets of Verona earlier this year as workers tried to exert pressure on the Italian government to intervene in the affair, arguing that the site was still making a profitable contribution to the GSK group as a whole.

That action and lobbying by trade unions appeared to have some effect, as ministers set up an arbitration committee in March to try to find a solution that would keep the plant open.

In a statement, GSK and Aptuit said the decision "will help maintain the life sciences research and talent pool in Italy", and also ensure that Verna becomes "an important member of GSK's contract research organisation network".

Verona was one of several R&D sites around the world that were earmarked for closure or sale as part of GSK's major restructuring of its research organisation announced in February.

At the time, the company said Verona was no longer central to its plans as it had decided to cease discovery research in certain areas of the neurosciences - such as pain and depression - because it was hard to make a return on these investments.

"The Verona site has a world class reputation in the neurosciences field," commented Aptuit's Tyson, adding that the combination with his company's existing portfolio produced "an unparalleled breadth and depth in scientific capabilities and services".

Aptuit said it will combine its existing capabilities with the Verona centre’s expertise in "drug discovery, lead optimisation, active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) development and manufacturing, and pre-clinical and clinical drug development".

Financial terms of the agreement have not been disclosed.

Phil Taylor

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