Japan’s Ajinomoto Acquires Contract Drug Maker Althea Technologies

Xconomy San Diego — 

[Updated 3/7/13 7:34 am to include terms, other details. See below.] Ajinomoto, a Japanese food, pharmaceuticals, and specialty chemicals manufacturer, is acquiring San Diego-based Althea Technologies, a contract manufacturer of drugs, proteins, and injectable products that was founded in 1998. In a statement, Ajinomoto valued the deal, expected to close next month, at about $175 million.

Althea develops and makes biopharmaceuticals and provides related products and services to support biopharmaceutical customers from preclinical development through commercial production. The contract manufacturer’s capabilities include aseptic filling of syringes and protein delivery technology for recombinant protein and injectable products.

Ajinomoto, which generated global sales of $15.1 billion in fiscal 2011, plans to continue serving Althea’s customers, which include Pfizer licensee Profectus BioSciences. Althea has about 220 employees, and Ajinomoto plans to add biotech jobs in San Diego as part of its expansion, Althea CEO Rick Hancock told Brad Fikes of U-T San Diego. By 2020, Ajinomoto says the business should be generating annual revenue of 30 billion yen, or $320 million.

Telegraph Hill Partners, the specialized private equity firm based in San Francisco, was a key investor and worked closely with Althea as the company opened a new 30,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in 2009 and built its management team. Telegraph Hill’s founding chairman and managing partner, J. Matthew Mackowski, and partner Deval Lashkari joined Althea’s board in 2006. Althea disclosed a $23 million investment by Telegraph Hill in 2007. Althea also raised $17 million in venture debt through Hercules Technology Growth Capital in 2010.

In 2008, Althea said it was spinning out part a part of its business that was focused on gene expression analysis in 2008, forming AltheaDx to identify biomarkers and to develop specialized genetic testing technologies for use as companion diagnostics to guide cancer treatments. Eric J. Topol, director of the Scripps Translational Science Institute and chief academic officer of Scripps Health, sits on the new company’s scientific advisory board.

Althea Technologies co-founder Francois Ferré now serves as the CEO of AltheaDx. Magda Marquet, who also co-founded Althea Technologies, sits on the board at AltheaDx, along with Telegraph Hill’s Mackowski and Lashkari.