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Novartis buys Morris Plains drug manufacturing site in $43M deal

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A Morris Plains pharmaceutical manufacturing site will stay in operation under new ownership.

Dendreon Corp. today announced the sale of a 173,100-square-foot immunotherapy manufacturing facility to Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corp. for $43 million in cash.

As part of the deal, Novartis will retain about 100 employees at the site, nearly half of the existing work force.

“It actually fits in with the restructuring plan we announced back in July,” said Christine Mikail, executive vice president for corporate development at Dendreon.

In July, the Seattle-based firm said it would close the Morris Plains plant and consolidate the manufacturing of its prostate cancer drug Provenge at existing plants in California and Georgia.

Mikail said Dendreon had “more than one interested party” inquire about the Morris Plains plant, but said Novartis was the best fit, in part because Novartis in August entered into a research and licensing agreement with the University of Pennsylvania to study and commercialize cellular immunotherapies.

Novartis spokeswoman Julie Masow said the plant will be used to “support clinical and commercial production of potential new products/personalized cell therapies” that come out of the Novartis-Penn collaboration. The first such therapy, known at CTL019, is the subject of a pilot clinical trial at Penn, Masow said.

Dendreon will continue to have a presence in New Jersey. Mikail and Chairman and CEO John H. Johnson work out of the firm’s Bridgewater office, and the state also is home to Dendreon’s commercial group.

Asked about future hiring plans for the site, Masow did not give specifics.

“To manage the future capacity and volume needs, Novartis intends to build on the strong foundation and know-how at the site,” she said. “The current plan is to retain nearly half of the existing employees, as they have the experience with the production of human cell therapy products, including the entire product end-to-end process.”

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