Chicago’s scenic expressway Lake Shore Drive has long been an elite address on the opulent north side of America’s third-largest city.
Fifty miles to the northwest in the small town of Woodstock, Illinois, there’s another Lake Shore Drive. It’s not quite as illustrious, but its main resident, Woodstock Sterile Solutions, wants to make it an elite address in the blow-fill-seal business. The BFS manufacturing approach is a proven, continuous process to package liquid pharmaceutical products in a sterile space.
After its divestiture from Catalent, and boosted by investment from SK Capital, Woodstock is pushing forward as a single-site company, just as it was when the plant opened four decades ago as Automatic Liquid Packaging.
Overseeing the transition is CEO Paul Josephs, formerly the CDMO chief at Mylan/Viatris. Josephs recently checked two important boxes off his to-do list—hiring a chief financial officer and an IT chief—and in the process achieved all of the milestones in Woodstock’s 90-day changeover plan.
“SK Capital is attuned to doing carve-outs from large multinationals and has been successful, so they do have a playbook,” Josephs said in an interview. “We’ve implemented that playbook. Things have gone smoothly.”
Helping facilitate the transition is Woodstock’s chief commercial officer Bill Hartzel, a 10-year veteran at Catalent, who has been busy assembling a sales team. He will look to expand Woodstock’s business beyond its traditional roles.
“BFS is an untapped technology and it is primed for growth and expansion—not just the respiratory and ophthalmic space—but as a sterile delivery platform,” Hartzel said upon his hire in April.
While much of the site’s management team remains in place, some key functions previously performed at the corporate level need to be “stood up independently,” Josephs said. To that end, Woodstock hired its new CFO, Courtney Sanen, who held the same title at her previous two stops—Liquid Technologies and Elevation Labs.
Set on 19 acres, Woodstock’s 420,000-square foot campus houses more than 30 BFS suites. More than 500 employees work there, and the facility operates operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
When Catalent decided to offload its single-site BFS business to hone its focus on cell and gene therapy manufacturing, SK Capital showed up with an offer. Aaron Davenport, SK’s managing director and now Woodstock’s chairman, lured Josephs away from Viatris.
Josephs said he’s long respected SK and has known Davenport for nearly a decade. The “opportunity to get back in private equity and to build something which I think has great potential was too much to pass up.”
To make things easier, Woodstock has retained more than 30 customers.
“We have a real strong book of business today, and we have a good portfolio of products under development that will commercialize over the next three to five years,” Josephs said. “But our No. 1 goal is to continue to bring in a significant amount of new opportunities. We have a whole lot of potential, a whole lot of capacity to build into. The one thing in the CDMO business is products cycle in and they cycle out, so you have to keep feeding that funnel.”
Woodstock comes along as a solo act at a good time. The quick scale-up in response to the pandemic has brought new focus to pharmaceutical manufacturing. Based on the site’s history and reputation, Josephs believes the company is in position to take advantage.
“We have a great compliance record today but the one thing with the FDA is, it doesn’t stand still. The requirements and rules and regulations continue to increase and we have to keep pace,” Josephs said. “The great thing is, when you’re doing business with more than 30 different customers, you get exposure to a lot of free advice from your customers during audits. So where we have to be is at the leading edge of compliance because our customers entrust us with it.”