Powering Welsh life sciences
Tredegar-based specialist pharmaceutical services provider Penn Pharma looks set for further expansion following its recent sale to leading US drug development company Packaging Coordinators, Inc. Already highly internationalised – two thirds of Penn’s business is with clients outside the UK – PCIs global footprint will provide the fast-growing Welsh company with the opportunity to expand further and to better support its existing client base.
Penn’s expertise was clearly a big draw for its acquirer. “Our specialist capabilities will add huge value to PCI,” says John Roberts, commercial director at Penn Pharma. “And for us, we now have the benefits of being part of a significant US group.”
Penn has contributed to the Welsh pharmaceutical success story with its 300-strong workforce – while Wales has just 5% of the UK population, life sciences make up 10% of total British employment in the sector. The industry is clearly set for further growth on the back of a £100 million Wales Life Sciences Investment Fund announced two years ago and aimed at providing equity finance to local pharmaceutical and biotech companies. And in July this year, the Welsh Government rolled out the Life Sciences Hub Wales in Cardiff Bay to provide a national and international focal point for the life sciences and healthcare sectors in Wales.
Penn has also had strong backing from the Welsh government. The company relocated from England to Wales in 1986, receiving financial support to set up shop in Tredegar, and also when it later established a logistics facility in nearby Oakwood. More recently, again with government help, the company completed the build of a new £14 million contained manufacturing facility. And just a few months ago, Penn announced a further £3 million investment to increase its large-scale commercial production capacity for its granulation, tableting and coating processes.
“We have always had excellent support from the Welsh government,” says Roberts. “The assistance we received for the new containment suite certainly facilitated construction. It was all built rapidly in 12 months and the local council’s support was also essential in enabling us to achieve that.”
Roberts believes there are now very few sites in the world which can match Penn’s new Tredegar facilities. “We are certainly a recognised leader in the contained manufacture of potent drugs, and this is becoming increasingly important with the growth in cancer drugs.”
Penn’s expansion plans will likely see the company drawing further on local resources. “We have always had a loyal and committed workforce here in Tredegar,” Roberts says. “We have good links with Welsh universities, in particular with the University of South Wales, and we have recruited some graduates from the science faculty there to work in the analytical side of our operations.”
He adds, “We have a clear strategy of providing specialised and differentiated services to our global customers and that’s something we can very effectively execute from our base in Wales.”