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15 August, 2006 - 15:16 By Staff Reporter

Biotech entrepreneurs undeterred by Millennium experience

American owned Sigma-Aldrich Corporation has acquired Cambridge Science Park based Pharmorphix, a privately held firm that offers research services to pharma and biotech companies.

Pharmorphix was one of two start-ups created in 2003 by key executives made redundant following the closure of Millennium Pharmaceuticals’ Cambridge base.

The value of the cash deal is not being disclosed. The addition of Pharmorphix will broaden SAFC Pharma’s manufacturing services customer base and enhance its technology services offering for existing customers.

Pharmorphix had sales of around £2.72m over the past year. Sigma-Aldrich said the acquisition was expected to help the company achieve its growth goals over the next several years and “be neutral to mildly accretive to earnings in 2006, with no initial charges.”

The US company also highlighted the new customers the acquisition would deliver.

Pharmorphix’s workforce of 25, including the existing management team, will remain with the business. In fact Pharmorphix is in the process of expanding its operations across the business according to operations director, Dan Cowell. US ownership does not automatically spell downsizing, Cowell said.

“There was absolutely no need to do this deal; we did it because Sigma-Aldrich shares our commitment to growth and our vision for the company over the next 10 years. There is an increasing drive in the industry to outsource in specialist areas. Our combination of good science and good people means we are in a good position to deliver our growth targets.”

Pharmorphix’s technology allows drug companies to determine the best way of progressing their products from lab bench science to a manufacturable powder or liquid, for example.

Its services are sold to a large number of pharmaceutical and biotech customers that require information on the ‘solid state’ of therapeutics to support regulatory and intellectual property submissions.

Sigma’s president, Frank Wicks, said: “This technology-driven purchase of a leading company in its field is further indication of our desire to be considered the global outsourcing partner of choice for the pharma and biotech sectors.

“Recently-published FDA guidelines concerning specification of API solid form make the services provided by firms such as Pharmorphix crucial to the pharmaceutical industry.

“In addition, better understanding and characterisation of solid form provides valuable intellectual property that can be used to extend the patent life of new therapeutics.”

Pharmorphix is the second company this year to be integrated within Sigma-Aldrich organisation, following the May acquisition of Iropharm, a cGMP compliant commercial-scale chemical synthesis manufacturing site in Arklow, Ireland.

SAFC has four operating segments with combined annual sales of £238m in 2005 and is one of the world’s 10 largest fine chemical businesses.

Cambridge’s other ‘Mill-ennium exiles’, Sareum floated on the AIM market in October 2004.

Millennium closed its Cambridge base just months after moving into a multi-million pound facility, cutting around 150 jobs in the process.

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