Fujifilm's CDMO carves foothold in Boston biotech hub with new HQ focused on viral vectors, gene therapies
On the heels of a red-letter year for contract manufacturers, Japan’s Fujifilm has seen its CDMO arm — Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies — earn interest from major Covid-19 vaccine makers for its viral-vector capabilities. Now, the drugmaker is looking to lock down its US footprint in the bustling Boston biotech hub.
Fujifilm will invest roughly $40 million (or 4 billion yen) in a new headquarters in the greater Boston area for its CDMO arm, which will also function as its third viral-vector manufacturing site.
The Boston facility, Fujifilm’s second US location, is set to begin process development analyses and experiments for conditioning cell cultivation by the fall of 2021. The capacity for drug substance manufacturing in early-stage clinical trials will come later, in fall 2023, the company said in a press release.
Fujifilm also has a viral-vector plant in Texas — that facility opened in 2014 and has since undergone a $120 million expansion to further increase manufacturing capacity. In October, the company also announced plans for a gene therapy site in the UK, which it said would be operational by this spring.
The efforts to ramp up its impact in viral-vector therapeutics is the latest in Fujifilm’s years-long investments across biopharma manufacturing. In 2017, the spotlight was on expanding monoclonal antibody facilities, and the year after, the conglomerate ventured to regenerative medicine by buying two companies specializing in cell-culture media.
Now, the newest CDMO investment is aimed at an ultimate goal of fulfilling unmet medical needs, Fujifilm senior executive vice president Takatoshi Ishikawa said in a statement.
“The strength of Fujifilm’s Bio CDMO business lies in its wide-range of capabilities: process development for a variety of biopharmaceutical such as antibodies, recombinant protein, gene therapy, vaccines, oncolytic virus and more, along with flexible facilities that can adapt to small or large scale manufacturing of drug substances, formulation and packaging,” he said.
Fujifilm — parent company, not the CDMO — in recent months has pursued a Covid-19 niche for flu drug Avigan, a drug thought early in the Covid-19 pandemic to be promising. Two weeks ago, however, the Japanese health ministry determined that it found data on the drug’s effectiveness to be inconclusive.
Also known as favipiravir, the drug showed improvement in non-severe Covid-19 cases after 11.9 days, shorter than the 14.7 days for those in a placebo group, according to a 156-person trial test. Per Japanese media reports, though, the trial was open-label and some of the criteria were unclear, leading to the hesitancy from state regulatory agencies.