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WuXi closes $30M Middletown land acquisition

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This Middletown farmland is set to become a major employer for New Castle County under a project by WuXi STA. The company recently acquired the land in a $30 million deal. | DBT PHOTO BY JACOB OWENS

MIDDLETOWN – The massive WuXi STA pharmaceutical campus on the southern edge of Middletown took a step forward recently as the global company closed its land acquisition.

The company finalized a deal Sept. 24 to buy two parcels totaling nearly 190 acres between Levels Road and Industrial Drive for just over $30 million from South Carolina-based real estate investment firm Sherman Capital Markets, according to county land records. Although the project’s details have been reviewed by state officials and publicized by the media, the cost of the land acquisition was one of the few pieces of the projects undisclosed publicly until now.

A WuXi spokesman said the company didn’t have a comment on the land deal, but added that the project was advancing on schedule.

The future $510 million manufacturing campus is a major win in Gov. John Carney’s economic development efforts, backed by $19 million in taxpayer-funded grants.

The grant, made to STA Pharmaceutical USA, a subsidiary of Shanghai-based WuXi AppTec, is the largest grant approval made during Carney’s term, totaling nearly four times that given to Amazon for its massive Boxwood Road fulfillment center last year. It is the largest grant approved by the state since Bloom Energy was given $16.5 million to locate in Newark in 2011.

STA was granted $3.25 million in a job performance grant to hire 479 people by 2026, a capital expenditure grant of up to $15.3 million to aid in the facility’s construction cost, and a training grant of up to $500,000 to help prepare workforce for the jobs that would be at the manufacturing plant.

According to Dean Childers, the project manager and future site leader, the first phase of construction would include 600,000 square feet of space in at least three buildings, including one for drug products, one for administration and one for drug substances. Construction is expected to start in May 2022, with the start of phase one operation planned for the first half of 2024.

Once fully built, the WuXi campus could employ more than 1,000 people in Middletown. | PHOTO COURTESY OF STATE OF DELAWARE

WuXi’s Delaware site will measure 1.74 million square feet, featuring at least seven buildings, built out in several phases, officials said. The facility will feature space for testing laboratories; manufacturing of active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs); and manufacturing and packaging of solid dosage pharmaceutical products and sterile products. It will join a commercial area that is already home to an Amazon fulfillment center, a Datwyler manufacturing plant and soon Breakthru Beverage’s new state distribution center.

WuXi STA, led by CEO Minzhang Chen, a former executive of Boston-based Vertex Pharmaceuticals, is a small molecule development and manufacturing firm. Chen has led the company from a research firm to a contract development and manufacturing organization (CDMO), which aids in the development and manufacturing of drugs for contracted clients. It already works with industry leaders like AstraZeneca, Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, GlaxoSmithKline, Sanofi, Abbvie and Lilly, among dozens of others.

“WuXi STA is excited to join Delaware’s growing healthcare community and establish Middletown as the home of our new state-of-the-art pharmaceutical clinical and commercial manufacturing complex,” Chen said in a statement released after the approval. “Delaware’s highly trained pharmaceutical manufacturing workforce and proximity to many of our customers provide tremendous opportunities to support the region’s economic growth and efforts to advance pharmaceutical development and manufacturing. We are grateful to Delaware and Middletown for their leadership in fostering a strong entrepreneurial and innovation ecosystem, and we look forward to collaborating to deliver groundbreaking treatments for patients.”

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