Catalent Pharma Solutions is opening a gateway to China for its clinical-trial supplies business through a joint venture with locally based contract research organisation ShangPharma Corporation.

No financial or ownership details were disclosed on the joint venture, which is called Catalent (Shanghai) Clinical Trial Supplies Co., Ltd.

It will run a new 31,000 sq ft facility, currently under construction in Shanghai, which the joint-venture partners say will be the first in China to provide end-to-end solutions for clinical-trial supplies, including comparator sourcing, primary and secondary packaging and labelling, and storage and distribution.

Catalent has also agreed to acquire, subject to regulatory approvals, a majority share in Haining-based, privately held Zhejiang Jiang Yuan Tang Biotechnology Co., Ltd.

This business, which produces nutritional softgel products for the Chinese and Asia Pacific markets, will provide a platform for Catalent’s Softgel Technologies arm in the region.

The US company intends to work with regulators towards future expansion into over-the-counter and prescription softgel manufacturing in China.

Clinical services expansion

Catalent’s broad range of services encompasses pharmaceutical development, drug delivery technologies and supply-chain capabilities such as manufacturing and packaging.

Around a year and a half ago, the company raised its clinical services profile significantly by acquiring the Clinical Trial Supplies business of Aptuit LLC for US$410 million in cash.

Aptuit was selling the business to concentrate on its integrated discovery to mid-phase development activities. At the time, Catalent said the acquisition would make it the number two provider of clinical supply solutions worldwide.

Important market

“As part of our growth strategy, these initial steps enable us to better serve the important Chinese market for both global and domestic customers,” commented John Chiminski, president chief executive officer (CEO) of Catalent Pharma Solutions.

Michael Hui, founder and CEO of ShangPharma, said the tie-up would enable both ShangPharma and Catalent “to better serve our multinational pharmaceutical customers through tailored, integrated solutions”.

Catalent plans to make additional investments in the two new ventures over several years to broaden its offerings in the Chinese market.