Auckland pharmaceutical company Argenta expands to the US

Last updated 10:38, January 8 2016

Doug Cleverly’s multimillion-dollar firm Argenta does work for nine of the top 10 animal health pharmaceutical companies in the world.

When scientist and businessman Doug Cleverly started working in a South Auckland factory in the early 90s, he dreamed of one day owning the place.

Not only does he now own the site, where he runs his own pharmaceutical company Argenta, but he has just opened his first facility in the United States.

Argenta specialises in animal health, providing new product development and manufacturing services to the international animal health industry.

Rather than sell products under its own brand, Argenta is a business-to-business company that invents technology and licenses it.

Around 30 per cent of Argenta products go to the US, making it the company’s largest market, and Cleverly said it made sense to have a physical presence there.

“We’ve always had clients [in the US] that think highly of us but they always said, ‘if you had a plant in the US, we’d be keen to bring you more work’.

“When people come visit you in the US, that means more work for our research scientists in New Zealand.”

The new 14,000-square-metre facility in Iowa is for manufacturing only, and all research and development will stay in New Zealand, Cleverly said.

Cleverly started Argenta in 2006 with friend and mentor Gordon Vincent.

They did contract research work for bigger companies before buying the facility in the South Auckland suburb of Takanini, where Cleverly started working as a research chemist in 1992.

“Back then I wandered through the place thinking about what it could become. It’s quite neat to go and buy it 10 years later and convert it into what its true potential can be.”

There are now 70 scientists working there in a team of 300, helping the company turn over between $60 and $100 million a year.

It has not been all smooth sailing – the company struggled through the financial crisis when clients stopped ordering products right after the company borrowed money to buy a new manufacturing plant.

Luckily, Argenta could fund its way through by licensing and selling intellectual property assets.

Argenta currently focused on parasiticide products for large animals but the plan was to expand into pet medicine as well as different types of product.

While Cleverly was happy with the direction of the company’s growth, his proudest achievement has been his team.

“I remember sitting in a meeting and I looked around the room, and there wasn’t a single person here I wasn’t proud to work with. It’s a privilege to say that.”

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