Japanese conglomerate Asahi Glass recently spent half a billion dollars to buy the Danish contract manufacturing company CMC Biologics and has made Bothell the center for a multinational biotechnology operation it intends to grow.
Asahi Glass is the sort of sprawling, century-old Japanese conglomerate that makes everything from glass and electronics to chemicals, ceramics and flooring materials.
It also has a hand in warehousing and transportation services, as well as “cleaning of buildings, gardening and tree planting; recycling of waste; and management and administration of port facilities,” according to Standard & Poor’s.
Not mentioned is biotechnology — but that could change.
Asahi recently spent $511 million to buy the Danish contract-manufacturing company CMC Biologics, and has made CMC’s Bothell unit the center for a multinational operation it intends to grow.
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“The bioscience division will be headquartered here in Bothell,” said Gustavo Mahler, president and Global CEO of CMC. “All the decisions about capital and growth will be made from this site here, and these other operations will be monitored from here.”
The 800-employee biotech company includes 300 in Bothell, another 300 in Denmark, and a small group in Berkeley, Calif., as well as Asahi’s small biotech-manufacturing operation in Japan and a similar German company it recently acquired.
The one tough thing about this globe-spanning assemblage, said Mahler, is that “it’s very difficult to find a good time to talk for all of us.”
Part of what drew Asahi, he said, is CMC’s early push into manufacturing bioengineered drugs in large stainless-steel vats with single-use plastic liners that make it easy to shift from one process to another.
“That enables us to switch products very quickly without the possibility of cross-contamination,” Mahler said. Also, the approach fits the industry’s trend toward making more targeted and, it is hoped, more effective drugs that are needed in smaller quantities.
Leslie Alexandre, president of the Life Science Washington trade group, said CMC has done work “for probably 20 of the 30 largest biotech companies” globally, ranging from development and manufacturing for clinical trials to larger-scale commercial production.
Its Bothell location bolsters a niche that the city has developed, with other local biotechs such as Seattle Genetics, Juno Therapeutics and the former ZymoGenetics also choosing to do manufacturing there.
Mahler said CMC added 110 people in Bothell in 2015-16. As Asahi’s new bioscience unit, it expects to grow by another 100 to 150 here in the next two or three years.
CMC was already “probably 20 times the size” of Asahi’s Japanese biotech operation, so going forward, he said, “our contribution will not be marginal.”