Nanotech drug firm Abraxis strengthens Phoenix presence

November 9, 2007

By hammersmith

The CEO of Abraxis BioScience Inc., a pharmaceutical company specializing in the application of nanotechnology to cancer therapeutics, met this week with Phoenix-area officials who hailed the company’s recent arrival. In late July, Abraxis purchased a 200,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in Phoenix, and now employs 85 staff at the site, which was formerly owned and operated by Watson Pharmaceuticals Inc.

According to the Business Journal of Phoenix, Patrick Soon-Shiong, Abraxis’ chief executive officer and chairman, discussed the company’s plans for future growth with Gov. Janet Napolitano, Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon, and several key researchers and specialists in economic development. The Greater Phoenix Economic Council (GPEC) hosted a reception for Soon-Shiong to begin exploring opportunities for Abraxis to interface productively with other bioscience firms and researchers in the region.

Soon-Shiong told the that he has been seeking the kind of opportunities for collaboration and creativity that exists among Arizona’s nexus of university researchers, independent scientific institutes, and biotech firms.

“You have an opportunity to change the country,” he told local and state leaders at the GPEC reception, according to the Business Journal. “I hope to be part of your vision.”

In the short term, the arrival of Abraxis has prevented a significant workforce loss for the Phoenix biotech industry. Watson Pharmaceuticals, which had operated the facility since 2000, at its peak employing more than 200 people, had been looking to leave town, and had considered closing the facility even if it didn’t line up a buyer. Watson has shifted much of its production to newly acquired off-shore sites in recent years to cut costs.

The facility that Abraxis bought is well-suited for production of the injectable drugs that are the company’s focus. The firm’s leading drug, Abraxane, treats metastic breast cancer by delivering a chemotherapy agent called paclitaxel directly to cancerous cells. In Abraxane, paclitaxel is bound to albumin, a protein that transports nutrients through the body. The nanoparticles of Abraxane enter cancer cells via the natural channels for albumin and then disrupt those cells’ growth.

The purchase of the former Watson manufacturing site, which also contains chemistry and microbiology labs, is just one of several major moves Abraxis has taken in recent months. In February it purchased a somewhat larger manufacturing facility in San Juan, Puerto Rico, from the pharmaceutical firm Pfizer. In early July it announced a restructuring plan that involves splitting into two companies. One firm, to be known as Abraxis Pharmaceutical Products, will have headquarters in Illinois; the new Abraxis BioScience, which will control the Phoenix facility, will be based in Los Angeles.

For more information:

Firm looks to grow Valley presence through new plant,” The Business Journal of Phoenix, 11/09/2007

Abraxis adds more manufacturing muscle,”, 08/01/2007