Charles River keeps adding on to its CDMO arm, snatching up a viral vector player for a tidy $350M
Contract researcher Charles River Laboratories has been on a roll recently to flesh out its manufacturing arm with a specific focus on its capabilities in gene therapy. Now, the firm is putting its name to a big check for a Maryland-based viral vector firm it thinks will add to its growing expertise in the field.
Charles River will dole out $292.5 million for gene therapy CDMO Vigene Biosciences with the possibility for an additional $57.5 million in performance-based payments, the companies said Monday. The deal will close at the start of Q3, a Charles River spokesman said.
For Vigene, the sale comes right on the heels of a February announcement that the company would add 52,000 feet of manufacturing space at its Rockville headquarters following a $1.225 million loan that Vigene secured from Maryland’s commerce department. The expansion was set to add 245 new jobs by 2025.
The CDMO is expected to generate between $30 million and $35 million in 2021, and Charles River anticipates year-over-year growth of 25% by 2026.
Viral vectors are key components used in many gene therapies and reinforce Charles River’s growing presence in the field after a spate of recent acquisitions. In February, the company snatched Cognate and its 500 employees along with tech for cellular immunotherapy, immuno-oncology, regenerative medicine and advanced cell therapy therapeutics. Cognate had also recently announced an expansion at the time of the buy, pledging to double manufacturing capacity at its Memphis headquarters and European sites.
With the addition of Vigene, the Charles River cell and gene therapy portfolio will expand each major CDMO platform: cell therapy, viral vector and plasmid DNA production, CEO James Foster said in the press release.
“In these emerging, high-growth, value-added segments, we intend to continue to differentiate ourselves by bringing our high-science, customizable approach to support the complex needs of cell and gene therapy developers and innovators worldwide,” he said. “Our goal is to become our clients’ scientific partner of choice for advanced drug modalities from discovery and non-clinical development to CGMP manufacturing.”
Vigene has a particular expertise in AAV production, as well as lentivirus. That range will complement Charles River’s current end-to-end, gene-modified cell therapy solution, the company said.
Meanwhile, Charles River has kept adding on in other areas of its business amid a busy 2020. In April, the company teamed up with Valence Discovery to expand its AI platform for molecular property prediction, generative chemistry and multiparameter optimization. Valence’s platform allows small molecule drugs in new regions of chemical space, allowing for rapid optimization against potency, selectivity, safety and pharmacology, the company says.
In January, the company bought antibody discovery company Distributed Bio for up to $104 million, with the goal of cutting down a year from clients’ early-stage development timelines, the company said.