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.
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.