Shire drug to close local plant

April 03, 2009|By Lorraine Mirabella | Lorraine Mirabella,lorraine.mirabella@baltsun.com

Biopharmaceutical company Shire plans to close its Owings Mills plant in phases over three years and lay off 260 workers as it discontinues in-house manufacturing of drugs to treat attention-deficit and hyperactivity disorders and gastrointestinal diseases, a company spokesman said Thursday.

Shire plans to outsource the work at the plant, with medications to be made instead in North Carolina by a contract manufacturer.

Shire decided to close the plant as it moves away from in-house manufacturing, said Matt Cabrey, the spokesman.

"Our strategy at Shire, in short, does not include in-house manufacturing," he said. The decision "is in no way related to the economic downturn in the U.S. or the global economy. It is strictly related to the strategy that Shire has in place for ... growth."

Ireland-based Shire, which has 3,600 employees worldwide and had $3 billion in revenue last year, purchased the 100,000-square-foot plant and warehouse in 2002 from Atlantic Pharmaceutical Services. APS, a contract manufacturer for pharmaceuticals, had been making some of Shire's products.

Shire invested about $65 million in buying the plant on Gundry Lane, purchasing additional land and building a new pharmaceutical technology center, which opened in 2006, to do small-batch testing.

The company told employees Wednesday that it would begin shutting the Owings Mills plant. That process is expected to take up to 36 months as the company phases out manufacturing one drug at a time.

Those products include: Adderall XR and Vyvanse, which are both used to treat ADHD; Carbatrol, which is used to treat epilepsy; and Pentasa, which is used to treat ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease.

The company's only other manufacturing facility is in Massachusetts, where Shire produces enzyme replacement therapies for rare genetic diseases.

Shire tried to sell the Owings Mills facility but has been unable to find a buyer, Cabrey said. The company plans to market the space to pharmaceutical companies and will work with the Baltimore County Department of Economic Development to find prospects.

"It will be a priority of the department to try to retain this facility as an operating pharmaceutical" plant, said David S. Iannucci, executive director of economic development. Shire "made it clear they would work with us ... to seek a buyer of the intact facility."

Another Baltimore County employer, Owings Mills-based Avatech Solutions Inc., which sells software for industries such as architecture, engineering and manufacturing, also announced plans Thursday to trim its work force.

To reduce costs, Avatech announced it will eliminate 10 percent of its work force, or about 20 jobs. The company employs 202 people in 18 U.S. offices, including 35 in Owings Mills, according to documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Company officials, who did not return calls for comment Thursday, also are reducing base pay for all employees and managers by 10 percent.

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