Abzena picks North Car­oli­na as the home for its 6th man­u­fac­tur­ing site, plans to add 325 jobs in San­ford

While Boston and San Fran­cis­co are the un­ques­tioned lead­ing biotech hubs in the US, drug­mak­ers — par­tic­u­lar­ly con­tract man­u­fac­tur­ers — are look­ing else­where for cheap­er re­al es­tate and un­tapped po­ten­tial. Now, a San Diego-based bi­o­log­ics mak­er look­ing to rapid­ly scale up is set­ting down roots in North Car­oli­na.

CD­MO Abzena will add 325 jobs in San­ford, NC, as part of a $200 mil­lion bi­o­log­ics plant that will even­tu­al­ly house around 24,000 square feet of biore­ac­tor ca­pac­i­ty, the com­pa­ny said.

The fa­cil­i­ty is com­ing as part of a mul­ti-phase out­lay that will add four mod­u­lar suites in the ini­tial phase, each of which will house two 2,000-liter biore­ac­tors. A sec­ond phase will add an­oth­er two suites with the 2,000-liter biore­ac­tors, for a to­tal of 12. The fa­cil­i­ty, Abzena said, will ac­com­mo­date Phase III and com­mer­cial man­u­fac­tur­ing, and will al­so be equipped to han­dle con­tin­u­ous man­u­fac­tur­ing and per­fu­sion by the mid­dle of 2022.

Kim­ball Hall

The ex­pan­sion al­so comes as a big boon for North Car­oli­na, one of the fastest-grow­ing biotech hubs in the coun­try.

“North Car­oli­na of­fers great re­sources for ac­cess to a tal­ent­ed work­force and oth­er re­sources for us as we bring the new fa­cil­i­ty on-line,” Abzena Pres­i­dent and COO Kim­ball Hall said in a state­ment.

The Abzena an­nounce­ment comes just weeks af­ter CD­MO Fu­ji­film Diosynth Biotech­nolo­gies al­so picked North Car­oli­na as the fu­ture home of its own $2 bil­lion bi­o­log­ics site that will ri­val some of the largest fa­cil­i­ties in the world. The Japan­ese sub­sidiary picked Hol­ly Springs, NC, for its cell cul­ture, plan­ning to add 725 jobs in the area by 2028.

Fu­ji­film had been search­ing for a home for the plant af­ter an­nounc­ing its in­tent to build back in Jan­u­ary. The com­pa­ny eyed lo­ca­tions with­in shout­ing dis­tance of its ex­ist­ing US sites in Col­lege Sta­tion, TX, and Mor­risville, NC. Ul­ti­mate­ly, North Car­oli­na won the lot­tery due to its “strong pool of tech­ni­cal tal­ent, lo­cal re­sources and part­ners with the right com­pe­ten­cies, clean en­er­gy re­sources, and sus­tain­abil­i­ty for fu­ture growth,” Fu­ji­film said in a re­lease.

The plants will come on­line in spring 2025 and house eight 20,000-liter biore­ac­tors with the po­ten­tial to ex­pand and add a fur­ther 24 biore­ac­tors of the same size “based on mar­ket de­mand,” the com­pa­ny says. The site will al­so in­clude com­mer­cial-scale, au­to­mat­ed fill-fin­ish and as­sem­bly, pack­ag­ing and la­bel­ing ser­vices.

So­cial im­age: Jonathan Gold­man, Abzena CEO

How one start­up fore­told the neu­ro­science re­nais­sance af­ter '50 years of shit­show'

In the past couple of years, something curious has happened: Pharma and VC dollars started gushing into neuroscience research.

Biogen’s controversial new Alzheimer’s drug Aduhelm has been approved on the basis of removing amyloid plaque from the brain, but the new neuro-focused pharma and biotechs have much loftier aims. Significantly curbing or even curing the most notorious disorders would prove the Holy Grail for a complex system that has tied the world’s best drug developers in knots for decades.

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Ugur Sahin, BioNTech CEO (Bernd von Jutrczenka/dpa via AP Images)

BioN­Tech is spear­head­ing an mR­NA vac­cine de­vel­op­ment pro­gram for malar­ia, with a tech trans­fer planned for Africa

Flush with the success of its mRNA Covid-19 vaccine, BioNTech is now gearing up for one of the biggest challenges in vaccine development — which comes without potential profit.

The German mRNA pioneer says it plans to work on a jab for malaria, then transfer the tech to the African continent, where it will work with partners on developing the manufacturing ops needed to make this and other vaccines.

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Ryan Watts, Denali CEO

De­nali slips as a snap­shot of ear­ly da­ta rais­es some trou­bling ques­tions on its pi­o­neer­ing blood-brain bar­ri­er neu­ro work

Denali Therapeutics had drummed up considerable hype for their blood-brain barrier technology since launching over six years ago, hype that’s only intensified in the last 14 months following the publications of a pair of papers last spring and proof of concept data earlier this year. On Sunday, the South San Francisco-based biotech gave the biopharma world the next look at in-human data for its lead candidate in Hunter syndrome.

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Why is On­col­o­gy Drug De­vel­op­ment Re­search Late to the Dig­i­tal Bio­mark­ers Game?

During the recent Annual ASCO Meeting, thousands of cancer researchers and clinicians from across the globe joined together virtually to present and discuss the latest findings and breakthroughs in cancer research and care. There were more than 5000+ scientific abstracts presented during this event, yet only a handful involved the use of motion-tracking wearables to collect digital measures relating to activity, sleep, mobility, functional status, and/or quality of life. Although these results were a bit disappointing, they should come as no surprise to those of us in the wearable technology field.

Art Levinson (Calico)

Google-backed Cal­i­co dou­bles down on an­ti-ag­ing R&D pact with Ab­b­Vie as part­ners ante up $1B, start to de­tail drug tar­gets

Seven years after striking up a major R&D alliance, AbbVie and Google-backed anti-aging specialist Calico are doubling down on their work with a joint, $1 billion commitment to continuing their work together. And they’re also beginning to offer some details on where this project is taking them in the clinic.

According to their statement, each of the two players is putting up $500 million more to keep the labs humming.

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Busi­ness­es and schools can man­date the use of Covid-19 vac­cines un­der EUAs, DOJ says

As public and private companies stare down the reality of the Delta variant, many are now requiring that their employees or students be vaccinated against Covid-19 prior to attending school or to returning or starting a new job. Claims that such mandates are illegal or cannot be used for vaccines under emergency use authorizations have now been dismissed.

Setting the record straight, the Department of Justice on Monday called the mandates legal in a new memo, even when used for people with vaccines that remain subject to EUAs.

Andrea Pfeifer, AC Immune CEO (AC Immune)

Look­ing to repli­cate Covid-19 suc­cess in neu­ro, BioN­Tech back­ers bet on AC Im­mune and its new­ly-ac­quired Parkin­son's vac­cine

The German billionaires behind BioNTech have found a new vaccine project to back.

Through their family office Athos Service, twin brothers Thomas and Andreas Strüngmann are leading a $25 million private placement into Switzerland’s AC Immune — which concurrently announced that it’s shelling out $58.7 million worth of stock to acquire Affiris’ portfolio of therapies targeting alpha-synuclein, including a vaccine candidate, for Parkinson’s disease.

Mer­ck­'s wom­en's health spin­out snags mid-stage can­di­date for preterm birth; Keytru­da nails down TNBC ap­proval af­ter March CRL

Nearly two months after spinning out from Merck, women’s health business Organon has struck its first half-billion-dollar deal.

Organon $OGN has promised $25 million upfront and another $475 million in biobucks for worldwide rights to ebopiprant, ObsEva’s investigational treatment for preterm labor. Ebopiprant, a selective prostaglandin F2α (PGF2α) receptor antagonist, was originally licensed from Merck KGaA in 2015. The candidate works by reducing inflammation and uterine contractions.

No­var­tis reshuf­fles its wild cards; Tough sell for Bio­gen? Googling pro­teins; Ken Fra­zier's new gig; and more

Welcome back to Endpoints Weekly, your review of the week’s top biopharma headlines. Want this in your inbox every Saturday morning? Current Endpoints readers can visit their reader profile to add Endpoints Weekly. New to Endpoints? Sign up here.

If you enjoy the People section in this report, you may also want to check out Peer Review, my colleagues Alex Hoffman and Kathy Wong’s comprehensive compilation of comings and goings in biopharma.

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