Novozymes is best known as a maker of enzymes used in industrial applications ranging from biofuels production to beer making, but the company has also spent the last nine years developing a way to make a protein that can stabilize drugs and vaccines in the blood.
This biopharmaceuticals work has always been a smaller part of Novozymes’ (NASDAQ OMX: NZYM) overall business. Now the company has determined that its biopharma unit has better growth prospects on its own. Denmark-based Novozymes, which operates its North American headquarters in Franklinton, NC, announced Tuesday that its biopharma unit has been spun off into an independent company called Albumedix. In its fourth quarter and full-year 2015 financial report, Novozymes says pharma “is no longer a strategic growth platform for Novozymes and will not be a focus area for investments.”
Peter Rosholm, who was previously Novozymes’ vice president of the biopharma unit, is now the CEO of Albumedix. The new company, which employs 100, is based in Bagsvaerd, Denmark.
The Novozymes biopharma unit’s R&D focused on albumin, the most prevalent protein found in blood. The pharmaceutical industry has used recombinant albumin, a form of the protein made from human or cow serum, in pharmaceutical and vaccine production. But fears of blood-borne contamination, among other concerns, spurred demand for an animal-free albumin alternative. Novozymes developed a way to make albumin from a proprietary yeast strain. This manufactured albumin, which the company says is free of any human- or animal-derived material, is called Recombumin.
Recombumin already has customers. Novozymes says that Merck (NYSE: MRK) has used the protein to stabilize its vaccines for measles, mumps, rubella, and chicken pox.
Novozymes also developed a second albumin product, Veltis. The company says Veltis works by extending the half-life of drugs, which prolongs a drug’s effect. Novozymes says GlaxoSmithKline (NYSE: GSK) has been using Veltis since 2014, employing the product in a diabetes drug with weekly instead of daily dosage.
Albumedix says other companies are evaluating potential use of Veltis. The company also says it will also pursue development of its own drug candidates using the Veltis technology.
Albumedix is wholly owned by Novozymes, and the spinoff will continue to be consolidated into the parent company’s financial reporting. The company’s executive team will report to an independent board of directors chaired by Don deBethizy, whose pharmaceuticals experience includes his tenure as the CEO of the now defunct Winston-Salem, NC-based drug developer Targacept.