Lonza Biopharmaceuticals plans to shutter its Baltimore operations next year, as it consolidates its U.S. microbial biopharmaceutical business in Hopkinton, Mass.
The 206 workers at the plant at 5901 E. Lombard St. will have the option of transferring to other Lonza facilities, including the Lonza Bioscience headquarters in Walkersville, Frederick County. That facility employs 475.
The closure of the Baltimore plant, which manufactures batches of product for other biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies under contract, comes shortly after the Basel, Switzerland-based parent company Lonza Group AG purchased two divisions - bioproducts and biopharma - from East Rutherford, N.J.-based Cambrex Corp. for $460 million. The deal, which was completed in February, included the facilities in Baltimore and Walkersville.
Lonza spokeswoman Melanie Disa said yesterday that the Baltimore site -- previously known as Cambrex Bio Science Baltimore Inc. - offered limited space for expansion, and would have required a significant investment.
"We'd have to shut down for 10 months to expand," she said.
Instead, the company is spending $30 million to expand its manufacturing capacity in Massachusetts and could add as many as 250 jobs there.
Baltimore employees who choose not to relocate will receive severance packages and job placement counseling, she said.
Kim Clark, executive vice president for the Baltimore Development Corp., said she's sorry to see Lonza go, but is confident that the city can attract new business to replace it.
"That's in a good section of town, especially for the recruitment of biotech companies," she said.
One of the plant's bigger orders is for a growth hormone deficiency treatment called Increlex for Brisbane, Calif.-based Tercica Inc. The two companies recently signed a new manufacturing agreement. Lonza will manufacture that product at its facility in Hopkinton once the Baltimore operation winds down.
The Frederick County plant, which Cambrex acquired when it bought BioWhittaker Inc. in 1997, makes diagnostic products for research.
Workers at the plant produce a test that uses blood from horseshoe crabs found off the Eastern Shore. The blood contains lysate, which binds to bacterial toxins. The test alerts researchers when bacteria is present in drugs, vaccines, intravenous fluids and medical implants.
Employment at that plant will likely grow, said Disa, the Lonza spokeswoman.