What do caffeine, theophylline and ephedrine have in common? All three active pharmaceutical ingredients are manufactured in the world's largest plants at BASF's Minden site. Numerous guests were invited to attend the on-site 75th anniversary celebration incorporating a tour of the production plants.
"Active pharmaceutical ingredients for industry have been successfully developed and produced here for 75 years now," Dr. Werner Biffar, general manager of BASF PharmaChemikalien GmbH & Co. KG noted in his speech. "We can be proud of that."
The BASF site in Minden has a turbulent history that goes back much further than the actual site's foundation. It all began with a young man who filed a patent on an invention in 1886: Albert Knoll. Knoll's patent filing laid the foundation stone for the company called Knoll & Co.. Knoll's invention made it possible to convert morphine to codeine, an important drug at the time for treating heavy cough and severe pain. In the following years, the Ludwigshafen-based concern built up a reputation as a respected pharmaceutical company. Knoll continued his research work. His achievements included isolating theobromine from cocoa shells, thereby producing a diuretic that was significantly superior to the substances available up to then. After a period of rapid expansion – with a workforce of 60 by 1896 – and the addition of a number of new substances to the product range, tablet manufacture was launched at the turn of the century. By the outbreak of World War I, Knoll & Co. was delivering product to 70 countries on all continents.
Readily accessible by ship and rail: the Minden site Growth was dramatically slowed down by the first world war and its aftermath. Export restrictions, a lack of specialist staff and the effects of the Treaty of Versailles hit the company hard. As a result, sales in 1923 were down to one-half of the pre-war figure. To circumvent closure of the site by the French, the company set up Knoll AG Chemische Produkte in Munich. The company resumed growth in the postwar period and quadrupled sales by 1930. An Armed Forces Health Committee visited Knoll in 1935 to conclude supply agreements for Knoll medicinal products. The committee called for a second plant in a safe part of Germany. Minden was the ideal site due to its location on the Mittellandkanal and good waterways. Moreover, Minden was located on what was then the most important rail link, i.e. Cologne-Berlin. The new company was entered in the commercial register on September 13, 1935 under the name of Chemische Werke Minden GmbH. Production of the first product - Cardiazol, a respiratory and cardiovascular stimulant – was launched just four years later. The drug ushered in a new era in the treatment of cardiovascular disease.
In the 1950s, company management pushed ahead with the expansion of the Minden plant to a production site for active pharmaceutical ingredients. This marked the end of a long tradition of prioritizing proprietary medicinal products. The change in strategy was mainly an attempt to take advantage of the favorable situation in the chemical sector and expand the company's business base at the same time. This basic strategy has not changed to this day. The following years saw plant extensions, modernizations and new product launches.
Knoll AG – and the Minden site with it – became a fully-owned BASF AG subsidiary in 1982. Reorganization of the Fine Chemicals segment in 2008 prompted the renaming of the business unit to Pharma Ingredients & Services. In August 2010, the business unit and the Minden site became part of the new Nutrition & Health division. From nasal sprays to tablets: 30 active pharmaceutical ingredients are made in Minden.
A large number of medicines including painkillers, nasal sprays and tablets to combat high blood pressure start life in Minden. These medicinal products are based on highly active substances developed and produced for the past 75 years at BASF's Minden site. The site is a key production location for approximately 30 active drug substances and cosmetic ingredients, and is a long-standing partner to the pharmaceutical industry. The site is equipped with state of the art production plants that meet the pharmaceutical industry's stringent quality standards and comply with the highest safety and environmental requirements. In Minden, BASF runs the world's largest production plants for synthetic caffeine, theophylline, ephedrines and pseudoephedrine. Minden currently has a workforce of about 300 employees.