Cash-rich Cambridge startup Rubius to build $155M cell therapy manufacturing site in Rhode Island
After closing two mega-rounds of investment within eight months of each other, the booming team at Rubius is now putting some of that cash to work. The Cambridge startup is building out a 135,000 square-foot manufacturing site in Rhode Island for its cell therapies — just months before it files its first IND.
The company plans to renovate an existing property in Smithfield, RI to do the job, investing $155 million over the next 5 years for the project. Back in March, Rubius’ president Torben Straight Nissen told Endpoints News that he was pondering an in-house manufacturing process. Developing a new class of medicine calls early on for some pricey manufacturing capacity.
The big idea at Rubius is that researchers can take red blood cells — designed by nature to transport oxygen — hijack them through genetic engineering tech and get them to carry proteins needed to fight various diseases. It’s an off-the-shelf approach, rather than one personalized for each patient.
It’s a platform play — a particular favorite of Flagship Pioneering, the startup factory that churned out Rubius. Flagship chief Noubar Afeyan has been one of the leading proponents of a move to find new platform companies with big potential for some game-changing technology and then coming up with the big money needed to build a full pipeline of therapies, rather than one or two pilot projects to demonstrate their potential.
Rubius’ platform has already attracted big financial support, raising $220 million in two round since last summer.
The R&D plan at Rubius is to push ahead with some lead enzyme replacement therapies being spawned on a platform that seeks to develop a brand-new class of cell therapies. The company plans to file its first IND for lead candidate RTX-132 in early 2019.
Bursting at the seams, Rubius is also now moving into 45,000 square feet in new digs at 399 Binney. By this summer, Nissen said, the staff should be up to around 100.