The American pharmaceutical multinational Johnson & Johnson has unexpectedly taken over the promising Mechelen-based Tibotec-Virco. With J&J the company gets a solid owner.
Johnson & Johnson invests a total of 360 million euros (cash and debt assumption) and in exchange receives all the shares of Tibotec-Virco ba, the Belgian private shareholders. For the American pharmaceutical giant, the activities of the company from Mechelen are a supplement to its own virus research. “With the expertise of Tibotec-Virco, we are significantly expanding our drug development department,” said Per Peterson of Johnson’s R&D department in a statement.
Tibotec-Virco specializes in diagnostic techniques and is one of the major players in the blood tests of AIDS patients and in the search for drugs against the deadly AIDS disease. Two promising resources are currently in the early development phase, some AIDS testers have already brought the company to market.
The Mechelen company did not give an official reason for the sale yesterday. But it can be deduced from the context that the acquisition requires fresh capital. “By becoming a member of the J&J family, we get the sustainable financial stability in the company that is needed to develop antiviral drugs,” says Rudi Pauwels, chairman of the company. “We now have access to the research work and commercial network of a multinational, but we will still be able to maintain our small-scale flexibility.”
According to De Financieel-Economische Tijd, Tibotec-Virco was urgently looking for fresh money. A cash shortage threatened this spring. “Pure speculation we don’t comment on,” says spokeswoman Karin Manson. “But it is true that we are active in a domain where hundreds of millions of dollars have to be invested over a few years.”
J&J is no stranger to the Mechelen biotech company. One of the two top people, Paul Stoffels, started his career with J&J daughter Janssen Pharma from Turnhout. “Tibotec also did research work for Janssen Pharma,” says Manson.
In total, Tibotec-Virco employs around 200 highly skilled employees. More than 150 of them work at the Mechelen headquarters. The rest works throughout the labs in Ireland and the United States. “The acquisition has few or no consequences for the Mechelen site,” says Manson. “The composition of the management will also be retained. There may be changes abroad. Tibotec can largely continue to follow a stand-alone course, but will of course make use of the economies of scale of Johnson.”
Tibotec-Virco was not created until last year, when the drug researcher nv Virco and the molecular diagnosis specialist nv Tibotec merged. In the summer of last year founders Rudi Pauwels and Paul Stoffels appointed the Frenchman Philippe Ballero as managing director. Pauwels and Stoffels each had a quarter of the shares. The holding company Pharma Capital also owned 25 percent. A group of Flemish investors (banks, Ibel and Trustcapital) held the remaining quarter. Thanks to the acquisition of Tibotec-Virco, Johnson & Johnson now has a second important research center next to Janssen Pharmaceutica from Beerse / Turnhout. With more than 100,000 employees on the payroll and 170 subsidiaries around the world, Johnson is one of the world’s largest drug producers.
- Mechelen’s company specializing in research has already been sold.