Frontida BioPharm Inc., an Exton-based affiliate of China-based Tigermed's Frontage Laboratories Inc., has purchased the former Mutual Pharmaceuticals drug production plants in Northeast Philadelphia's Juniata and Burholm neighborhoods, from India-based owner Sun Pharmeceuticals.

Frontida plans to expand the current Sun workforce of 255, who make a total of 40 products at the Philadelphia locations and a plant in Aurora, Ill., Frontida chief operations officer and co-owner Ron Connolly told me. The buyer and seller won't confirm sale price, which also includes 15 proprietary medicines.

The plants had been threatened with closing, Connolly said. He credited the City of Philadelphia, Philadelphia Works job-training funds and financing (with backing now in negotiation from the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corp.) for helping make the sale attractive to Frontida.

Connolly and chief exeutive Dr. Song Li worked together at the former Wyeth Pharmaceuticals before starting Frontage and Frontida. Frontage employs 450. That includes 250 at its labs in Exton, the rest in Suzhou and Shanghai, China.

Seller Sun Pharmaceuticals bought the plants from Japan-based Takeda pharmaceutical company in 2012, after Takeda bought Mutual's best-known product, gout treatment Colcrys, along with Mutual's owner, URL Pharma, from Dr. Richard Roberts for $800 million+.

At the time, URL claimed 500 employees plus 350 outside salespeople. But the separation from Takeda and Colcrys put its future in doubt, as my colleague David Sell wrote here.

Frontida sees opportunity to add products and staff. "I went to Drexel, I lived my whole life in Philadelphia, and I really want to see this company succeed," Connolly told me.

"Ron Connolly is really interested in developing this industry," John Grady, president of the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corp., told me. He said PIDC typically lends up to $40,000 per job "created and retained," and that Frontida seeks to support and expand "logistics, distribution, redevelopment and equipment purchase." It's a "very typical investment for us, particularly in the manufacturing sector." PIDC is co-owned by the city and its chamber of commerce.

Grady compared Frontida to Wuxi, the China-based pharma giant that purchased Philadelphia's Navy Yard-based Apptec Labororatory Services in 2008, and has been expanding there ever since. Besides Apptec's orginal 75,000 sf building (built by Liberty Property Trust in 2006), Wuxi  has added a 46,000 sf manufacturing plant and is constructing a third 145,000 R&D and manufacturing center. Wuxi does contract research and production, focusing particularly on T-cell manufacturing, immunotherapy, genetics.

Wuxi and Frontida are signs of Philadelphia's strength at Penn, CHOP and other research hospitals. "We have worldwide leading scientists developing these therapies and the flow of dollars is a result," Grady told me. Penn's . flow of dollars as a result.

Similarly, the new Penn partnership with Cambridge, Mass.-based Biogen could pump up to $2 billion into the med school for cell-based therapies over the next several years, Grady noted. In medicine and pharma, "Philadelphia has strong competitive advantages, and it drives the flow of talent" to the city, he concluded.