AstraZeneca to invest $300M in US cell therapy plant

Dive Brief:

  • AstraZeneca, looking to build its presence in cell therapy, plans to invest $300 million in a new manufacturing facility in Rockville, Maryland, that will focus on cancer treatments.
  • The facility will manufacture cell therapies for the company’s clinical trials as well as future commercial supply, the U.K. drugmaker said Tuesday. AstraZeneca expects to create more than 150 new jobs at the plant.
  • The 84,000 square-foot space should be fully operational by 2026, according to a press release from the state of Maryland. It’s located just a few miles away from the major research and development center in Gaithersburg, Maryland, that AstraZeneca acquired through its $15.6 billion purchase of MedImmune in 2007.

Dive Insight:

AstraZeneca is ramping up in cell therapy after a late entrance to the field. In 2022, it made its first significant acquisition in the area, buying up privately held Neogene Therapeutics. And the follow year, it formed a partnership with Quell Therapeutics to work on cell therapies for autoimmune diseases. The company has also struck development deals with AbelZeta in China and Cellectis.

At the same time, AstraZeneca has been exploring gene therapy, acquiring gene editing specialist LogicBio Therapeutics in 2022 and then inking a deal worth as much as $1 billion to acquire early-stage gene therapy programs and related technologies from Pfizer.

The new production site in Rockville is focused on T-cell therapies that are engineered to rev up the body’s immune system and attack cancer. In the future, the facility may have the capacity for other disease areas, AstraZeneca said.

As part of its latest announcement, AstraZeneca laid out its cell therapy pipeline, which includes preclinical work and several Phase 1 trials of so-called autologous CAR-T and T-cell receptor therapies.

The company said its ultimate goal is to develop a library of “off-the-shelf” therapies derived from the cells of healthy donors. These could be given to patients right away, rather than undergoing the time-consuming and complicated process of extracting a patient’s cells, engineering them in a lab and reinfusing them.

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