Garo Armen, Agenus CEO

Agenus to move Cal­i­for­nia op­er­a­tions to new bio­man­u­fac­tur­ing clus­ter in Va­cav­ille

In Oc­to­ber 2020, Va­cav­ille, CA launched a mas­sive bio­man­u­fac­tur­ing clus­ter that is ex­pect­ed to bring in 10,000 jobs and $2 bil­lion in de­vel­op­ment. Genen­tech had al­ready es­tab­lished its head­quar­ters in the city 50 miles north­east of San Fran­cis­co in 1994.

Now, the com­pa­ny will get a neigh­bor from the East Coast.

Lex­ing­ton, MA-based Agenus has bought a 120-acre lot near the ex­ist­ing Genen­tech fa­cil­i­ty and plans to build its own fa­cil­i­ty of 400,000 square feet, the San Fran­cis­co Busi­ness Times re­port­ed Wednes­day. It will help fill the void in the man­u­fac­tur­ing space that was opened up when a No­var­tis fa­cil­i­ty shut down in 2015 and then a J&J plant in 2019.

Russ Mo­roz

The city gov­ern­ment has tried to es­tab­lish it­self as a home to biotech, but has of­ten been over­shad­owed by oth­er Bay Area hubs like South San Fran­cis­co and Emeryville, Mar­cus & Mil­lichap’s Russ Mo­roz, who rep­re­sent­ed the sell­er in the Agenus deal, told the San Fran­cis­co Busi­ness Times.

Agenus will move its CMO op­er­a­tions and 70-plus em­ploy­ees from Berke­ley, CA, 45 min­utes away from the coast, CEO Garo Ar­men said in an email to End­points News. The new build­ing used to be­long to Cal­i­for­nia biotech Xo­ma, and many of Agenus’ cur­rent em­ploy­ees ac­tu­al­ly moved over to the com­pa­ny from Xo­ma be­fore it shut down, he said.

“The city is will­ing to work with us as part­ners. We will cer­tain­ly ex­pand our an­ti­body man­u­fac­tur­ing fa­cil­i­ties,” Ar­men said. “We will al­so have a man­u­fac­tur­ing cam­pus and process de­vel­op­ment, and we can al­so put our plant-de­rived prod­uct ex­pan­sion there as well …The city want­ed us to be the new own­er, in­stead of com­pa­nies look­ing to build shop­ping cen­ters or re­tail, since we are adding val­ue to the area, and adding skilled jobs to the area.”

Agenus is a clin­i­cal stage im­muno-on­col­o­gy com­pa­ny look­ing to make can­cer treat­ment more wide­ly avail­able through the com­bi­na­tion of ther­a­pies. In May, it signed a deal with Bris­tol My­ers Squibb to li­cense its pre­clin­i­cal bis­pe­cif­ic an­ti­body that tar­gets TIG­IT and an­oth­er undis­closed tar­get. That deal was worth $200 mil­lion up front, and $1.36 bil­lion in mile­stones. That deal closed on Tues­day, and Phase I dos­ing is ex­pect­ed to start at the be­gin­ning of Q3.

Va­cav­ille’s 300-acre “Cal­i­for­nia Bio­man­u­fac­tur­ing Cen­ter” was es­tab­lished at the same time as a non­prof­it with the same name, in­tend­ed to ac­cel­er­ate the growth of biotech through col­lab­o­ra­tion with part­ners in the in­dus­try. Its cam­pus is po­si­tioned in be­tween the cam­pus­es of the Uni­ver­si­ty of Cal­i­for­nia-Berke­ley and Davis, has been a home to the man­u­fac­tur­ing in­dus­try since the 1980s, the North Bay Busi­ness Jour­nal re­port­ed. Near­by Solano Com­mu­ni­ty Col­lege has of­fered a de­gree in bio­man­u­fac­tur­ing since 2017.

Op­ti­miz­ing Cell and Gene Ther­a­py De­vel­op­ment and Pro­duc­tion: How Tech­nol­o­gy Providers Like Corn­ing Life Sci­ences are Spurring In­no­va­tion

Remarkable advances in cell and gene therapy over the last decade offer unprecedented therapeutic promise and bring new hope for many patients facing diseases once thought incurable. However, for cell and gene therapies to reach their full potential, researchers, manufacturers, life science companies, and academics will need to work together to solve the significant challenges facing the industry.

David Baker working with a student on their protein design (Jason Mast)

Sci­en­tists are fi­nal­ly learn­ing how to de­sign pro­teins from scratch. Drug de­vel­op­ment may nev­er be the same

SEATTLE — It’s a cloudy Thursday afternoon in mid-July and David Baker is reclining into the futon in his corner office at the University of Washington, arms splayed out like a daytime talk show host as he coaches another one of his postdocs through the slings and arrows of scientific celebrity.

“Be jealous of your time,” he says, before plotting ways of sneaking her out of Zooms. “It’s this horrible cost to science that you’re tied up in some stupid meeting.”

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Pre­sent­ing a live End­points News event: Man­ag­ing a biotech in tur­bu­lent times

Biotech is one of the smartest, best educated industries on the planet. PhDs abound. We’ve had a long enough track record to see a new generation of savvy, experienced execs coming together to run startups.

And in these times, they are being tested as never before.

Biotech is going through quite a rough patch right now. For 2 years, practically anyone with a decent resume and some half-baked ideas on biotech could start a company and get it funded. The pandemic made it easy in many ways to pull off an IPO, with traditional road shows shut down in exchange for a series of quick Zoom meetings. Generalist investors flocked as the numbers raised soared into the stratosphere.

Long-ex­pect­ed UK lay­offs im­mi­nent for No­var­tis fol­low­ing sale

Nearly a year ago, more than 200 workers at Novartis’ Grimsby, UK, facility were able to hang on to their jobs after the pharma closed a Switzerland site as a part of its workforce restructuring plan. Now, it looks like those employees’ time is up, as the site has been sold, Grimsby Telegraph reported today.

The manufacturing site has been sold to Humber Industrials, a subsidiary of International Process Plants. None of the current staff members will be working with the new owners, however.

Patty Murray, D-WA (Graeme Sloan/Sipa USA)(Sipa via AP Images)

Sen­ate user fee reau­tho­riza­tion bill omits ac­cel­er­at­ed ap­proval re­forms, shows wide gaps with House ver­sion

The Senate health committee on Tuesday released its first version of the bill to reauthorize all the different FDA user fees. But unlike the House version, there are only a few controversial items in the Senate’s version, which does not address either accelerated approval reforms or clinical trial diversity (as the House did).

While it’s still relatively early in the process of finalizing this legislation (the ultimate statutory deadline is the end of September), the House and Senate, at least initially, appear to be starting off in different corners on what should be included.

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Warren Buffett, Berkshire Hathaway CEO

Berk­shire Hath­away pulls out of Ab­b­Vie, Bris­tol My­ers Squibb in­vest­ments

It looks like Warren Buffett is sticking to ice cream and railroads for the moment.

The billionaire CEO of Berkshire Hathaway backed out of two major holdings in the pharma industry, Forexlive first reported, including a $410 million investment in AbbVie and a $324.4 million stake in Bristol Myers Squibb.

The move comes after Berkshire abandoned its Teva shares just last quarter, Bloomberg reported.

Amidst R&D reshuf­fle, Ver­tex ex­pands its pres­ence in Boston, aim­ing to be­come num­ber one

Vertex Pharmaceuticals has been one of the buzzier names in the bustling Boston biotech scene, but now the company is looking to vault to number one status — at least in terms of physical footprint.

At a ribbon cutting on Tuesday for its new Jeffrey Leiden Center for Cell and Genetic Therapies at the Boston Seaport, Vertex announced it would embark on a new project: The company will build a 344,000 square foot facility in the seaport to accommodate the company’s growing R&D needs, especially in its cell and gene therapies program.

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FDA lob­bies Con­gress over rare dis­ease court rul­ing with wide im­pli­ca­tions

Usually reserved for making decisions on drug applications or enforcing what Congress stipulates, the FDA is now dipping its toe into the wild world of congressional politics as it attempts to fix a major court decision that could have a chilling effect on rare disease R&D.

The case in question from last October saw a US appeals court overturn a prior FDA court win, saying that the agency never should’ve approved a rare disease drug because a previously approved but more expensive drug with the same active ingredient has orphan drug exclusivity barring such an approval.

Peter Marks (Greg Nash/Pool via AP)

Even FDA's Pe­ter Marks is wor­ried about the com­mer­cial vi­a­bil­i­ty of gene and cell ther­a­pies

When bluebird bio’s gene therapy to treat beta thalassemia won European approval in 2019, the nearly $2 million per patient price tag for the potential cure seemed like a surmountable hurdle.

Fast forward two years later, and bluebird has withdrawn Zynteglo, the beta thal drug, along with the rest of its gene therapy portfolio from Europe, which the company said is generally unwilling to pay a fair price for the treatment.