Next-Generation Cell and Gene Therapies Drive Demand for Manufacturing Space in Major Life Sciences Clusters
Life sciences is a sector with long-standing clustering trends! Indeed, the advantages of physical proximity, collaboration and knowledge sharing are widely recognized, both for groups of companies and for the constituent elements of the same organization.
In a recent EY study, life science executives attributed 14.6% of revenue and 13.7% of cost savings to ecosystem involvement. EY also reported that companies with the best performing ecosystems added 1.7x more annual revenue and twice as much incremental revenue growth.
And there are other ways to measure benefits. AstraZeneca recognized the R&D potential of a localization in the Cambridge ecosystem. Collaborating with some of the world’s best scientists was at the heart of this decision, and the company now cites over 200 collaborations in the Cambridge ecosystem, including 130 with the University of Cambridge alone. It’s quite a contrast to the ten collaborations they had in 2013 before this move.
The benefits of R&D collaboration within key innovation ecosystems are therefore indisputable, but collaboration and partnership go beyond R&D and are increasingly driving decisions for biomanufacturing as well. For example, it was a big part of the solution to meeting the rapid scale-up demands involved in producing billions of doses of COVID vaccine in unprecedented time.
Cell and gene therapies take advantage of viral vector manufacturing platforms, as do several vaccines, including the AstraZeneca/Oxford version. With manufacturing demand for these next-generation therapies at an all-time high and limited capacity, how can growing biopharma and biotechnology companies benefit from localizing their biomanufacturing into established R&D ecosystems?
There are already several examples that provide useful guidance. In the United States, there is a growing list of companies – both start-ups and more mature biopharmaceuticals – that have chosen the Research Triangle Park (RTP) within the famous R&D center in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina, to house their cells and their genes. therapy manufacturing sites.
RTP benefits from being globally recognized as a leading biotech ecosystem, but in addition, North Carolina’s broader biomanufacturing scale provides access to rich talent pools and established supply chain infrastructure.
Novartis Gene Therapies has chosen RTP to produce its pioneering gene therapy, Zolgensma. Kriya Therapeutics completed its GMP gene manufacturing site in July 2021 and recently Chinese CARsgen opened its new CAR-T cell therapy manufacturing site.
Meanwhile, major biotech company Biogen last year announced plans to expand its existing biomanufacturing site to encompass its gene therapy production and biotech growth Jaguar Gene Therapy also revealed plans for a new facility of production.
One such company is Autolus Therapeutics, which has leveraged manufacturing within the catapult to develop its CAR-T cell therapy for the treatment of cancer. Now that it has progressed to commercialization, it is building its own 70,000 square foot manufacturing site – also in Stevenage – which will remain connected to the SBC campus. This gives Autolus the benefit of continuity of access to manufacturing capabilities within CGT until the completion of its own site in 2023.
Pharmaceutical giant GSK is also at the heart of the Stevenage ecosystem and is now using the CGT catapult to accelerate its own cell and gene therapy pipeline. These high profile collaborations will serve to reinforce Stevenage’s reputation as a go-to destination for companies developing cell and gene therapy companies in the UK and beyond.
Oxford is another world-leading life sciences R&D ecosystem that has seen significant development in advanced therapies and vaccine manufacturing in recent years. Oxford Biomedica’s viral vector platform has been used extensively in the manufacture of the Astra Zeneca COVID-19 vaccine, but it has also had a number of partnerships to develop and manufacture cell and gene therapies.
It now has several sites in Oxford, including the state-of-the-art Oxbox manufacturing plant. The UK government, working with academia and industry, has built the soon to be completed Vaccine Manufacturing Innovation Center at the Harwell campus in Oxford.
This will focus on strategic vaccine development, but will also offer a range of services to support vaccine development through to commercialization. It’s no surprise, then, that fast-growing start-ups – such as Oxford University spin-out Vaccitech – have chosen to stay in Oxford and locate its new 31,000-hour R&D center. square feet on the Harwell campus.
Meanwhile, Leiden in the Netherlands is another thriving R&D ecosystem, which is growing at a rapid pace. Bristol Myers Squibb (BMS) recently announced plans to build its first European CAR-T cell therapy manufacturing site at Leiden Biosciences Park on land owned by Leiden University.
Leiden is already favored by industry giants Johnson & Johnson, midsize player Astellas and upcoming biotech Galapagos, among others. BMS’s decision to locate its new, state-of-the-art CAR-T cell therapy manufacturing near Leiden University Medical Center offers many advantages of collaboration within established knowledge networks.
Location preferences for new manufacturing platforms follow an R&D model rather than traditional manufacturing, with access to specialist talent and the key to innovation. The presence of accessible manufacturing capabilities further enhances the attractiveness of even the most established R&D ecosystems, especially for companies in late stages of therapeutic development.
Long-term lease agreements and term financing of next-generation manufacturing sites within established centers are becoming more prevalent than the traditional pharmaceutical ownership model.
In the United States, we are seeing significant clustering of cell and gene therapy manufacturing in Raleigh-Durham’s Research Triangle Park, while in Europe we are already seeing the first signs of cluster development for vaccine manufacturing. and cell and gene therapies at Stevenage, Oxford and Leiden.
As the sector continues to grow and new therapies mature towards commercialization, the demand for biomanufacturing is expected to continue its growth trajectory. Consolidation within existing R&D centers, while a change for manufacturing, makes sense and offers many benefits in terms of collaboration, access to knowledge and capacity building.
For the clusters themselves, this gives them an even greater opportunity to energize and inspire future projects.
Joanne Henderson is Executive Director, Head of Life Sciences UK and EMEA at CBRE. Go to cbre.co.uk