MacFarlan Smith to close Annan API manufacturing facility

Article by Amanda Jasi

PHARMACEUTICAL company MacFarlan Smith has proposed the closure of its facility near Annan, UK, after its parent company Veranova concluded its manufacturing capacity exceeds market demands.

Referred to as Annan by its owner, the site in Southwest Scotland manufactures intermediate and finished product active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs). It hosts a multipurpose API pilot plant, which includes reactors up to 1,600 L, and a large-scale GMP manufacturing facility that includes two manufacturing trains. The large-scale facility has total reactor capacity of 65,000 L and is capable of batch sizes up to 800 kg. Good manufacturing practice, or GMP, is the minimum standard that medicine manufacturers must meet in their production processes.

The proposed closure would impact 64 jobs. The company said it will consult with relevant employees to ensure that they have the opportunity to express their views and make suggestions that might help avoid the closure.

Neik Stapel, CEO of Veranova, said: “Every effort has been made to avoid proposing the closure of the plant. This was a difficult decision to make which in no way reflects the performance or commitment of our colleagues at Annan.”

Veranova develops and manufactures APIs and was previously known as Johnson Matthey Health. It launched as an independent company after it was acquired by healthcare investment firm Altaris in 2022.

The proposed closure is subject to compulsory consultation requirements under UK law.

Mitigating impact

Following the announcement, local MP David Mundell and constituency MSP Oliver Mundell, said in a joint letter that since the site’s acquisition by Johnson Matthey (JM) in 2014, “it has been a vital source of employment within the local community and the loss of its entire workforce would be a heavy blow to the area”.

They have called on the regional economic and community development agency South of Scotland Enterprise (SOSE) to share proposed actions to mitigate the effects of the closure.

Separately, Jane Morrison-Ross, CEO of SOSE, said in a statement that news of the closure was “hugely concerning”, adding that it would be “extremely distressing” to site staff, their families, and the local community. She said SOSE was keeping up to date with the situation alongside the Scottish government, Dumfries and Galloway Council, and national skills agency Skills Development Scotland (SDS).

She added: “We are committed to working with our partners to do everything we can to support staff at Veranova and consider the wider implications of this announcement on the local area.”

Morrison-Ross also noted that SDS is putting into place PACE arrangements which can provide advice and support to Veranova employees facing redundancy. Partnership action for continuing employment, or PACE, is a Scottish government initiative dedicated to supporting those affected by redundancy.

JM acquired the Annan site in December 2014 from Bakhu Pharma. Following a renovation and refitment programme, JM announced the facility had received approval for GMP manufacturing in 2016. The facility was originally commissioned by Glaxo in 1980.

Article by Amanda Jasi

Staff reporter, The Chemical Engineer

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