In­no­force gets $96M to build up Chi­na cam­pus, in­clud­ing a new Ther­mo Fish­er-part­nered mon­o­clon­al an­ti­body man­u­fac­tur­ing fa­cil­i­ty

Sev­er­al months af­ter com­plet­ing what it calls a “Pre-A” fi­nanc­ing round, Chi­nese con­tract man­u­fac­tur­er In­no­force Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals is back at the ven­ture well, draw­ing $96 mil­lion to build up its Hangzhou cam­pus. This time, it’s bring a big-name part­ner along.

The mon­ey will go straight to con­struc­tion, In­no­force said, with blue­prints for a new mon­o­clon­al an­ti­body man­u­fac­tur­ing fa­cil­i­ty through a part­ner­ship with Ther­mo Fish­er Sci­en­tif­ic.

“We look for­ward to ex­pand­ing our man­u­fac­tur­ing plat­forms for gene and cell ther­a­py as well as mon­o­clon­al an­ti­body prod­ucts for Chi­na and the world, and to bring­ing a va­ri­ety of tech­nolo­gies to the cam­pus, and to the cre­ation and sup­port of in­no­v­a­tive prod­uct de­vel­op­ment com­pa­nies,” CEO Yul­ing Li said in a state­ment.

The first phase of con­struc­tion at the cam­pus will cov­er 21 acres and is slat­ed for com­ple­tion at the end of 2021, In­no­force said. In the mean­time, off-cam­pus process de­vel­op­ment labs and sup­port space are sched­uled to open this May. Process and an­a­lyt­i­cal tech de­vel­op­ment and CD­MO ca­pa­bil­i­ties for plas­mid DNA, vi­ral vec­tors, and cell and gene ther­a­pies will be “cen­tral to the cam­pus,” ac­cord­ing to a state­ment.

Back in No­vem­ber, Ther­mo Fish­er inked a joint ven­ture with In­no­force for a new man­u­fac­tur­ing fa­cil­i­ty to pro­duce mon­o­clon­al an­ti­body and pro­tein drugs, which should be com­plet­ed in 2022. Ear­li­er this month, Ther­mo an­nounced that it’s pump­ing $600 mil­lion in­to its glob­al man­u­fac­tur­ing net­work as part of a move to ramp up its short-term Covid-19 work and more than dou­ble its ca­pac­i­ty for the fu­ture.

“Our agree­ment with In­no­force will pro­vide crit­i­cal sup­port in help­ing to meet the high de­mand for bi­o­log­ics in Chi­na,” Michel La­garde, Ther­mo Fish­er’s ex­ec­u­tive VP, said in a state­ment at the time. “The ad­di­tion of the Hangzhou site will ex­pand our ex­ist­ing glob­al net­work and pro­vide drug de­vel­op­ment and man­u­fac­tur­ing ser­vices for cus­tomers in Chi­na, as well as for glob­al cus­tomers seek­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties in the re­gion.”

In­no­force’s Se­ries A was co-led by South Chi­na Ven­ture Cap­i­tal (SCVC) and Yanchuang Cap­i­tal, with help from oth­ers in­clud­ing Quan Cap­i­tal Man­age­ment, which led the $24 mil­lion “Pre-A” back in June.

Qual­i­ty Con­trol in Cell and Gene Ther­a­py – What’s Re­al­ly at Stake?

In early 2021, Bluebird Bio was forced to suspend clinical trials of its gene therapy for sickle cell disease after two patients in the trial developed cancer. As company scientists rushed to assess whether there was any causal link between the therapy and the cancer cases, Bluebird’s stock value plummeted – as did those of multiple other biopharma companies developing similar therapies.

While investigations concluded that the gene therapy was unlikely to have caused cancer, investors and the public may be more skittish regarding the safety of gene and cell therapies after this episode. This recent example highlights how delicate the fields of cell and gene therapy remain today, even as they show great promise.

Law pro­fes­sors call for FDA to dis­close all safe­ty and ef­fi­ca­cy da­ta for drugs

Back in early 2018 when Scott Gottlieb led the FDA, there was a moment when the agency seemed poised to release redacted complete response letters and other previously undisclosed data. But that initiative never gained steam.

Now, a growing chorus of researchers are finding that a dearth of public data on clinical trials and pharmaceuticals means industry and the FDA cannot be held accountable, two law professors from Yale and New York University write in an article published Wednesday in the California Law Review.

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Novavax CEO Stanley Erck at the White House in 2020 (Andrew Harnik, AP Images)

As fears mount over J&J and As­traZeneca, No­vavax en­ters a shaky spot­light

As concerns rise around the J&J and AstraZeneca vaccines, global attention is increasingly turning to the little, 33-year-old, productless, bankruptcy-flirting biotech that could: Novavax.

In the now 16-month race to develop and deploy Covid-19 vaccines, Novavax has at times seemed like the pandemic’s most unsuspecting frontrunner and at times like an overhyped also-ran. Although they started the pandemic with only enough cash to last 6 months, they leveraged old connections and believers into $2 billion and emerged last summer with data experts said surpassed Pfizer and Moderna. They unveiled plans to quickly scale to 2 billion doses. Then they couldn’t even make enough material to run their US trial and watched four other companies beat them to the finish line.

FDA of­fers scathing re­view of Emer­gent plan­t's san­i­tary con­di­tions, em­ploy­ee train­ing af­ter halt­ing pro­duc­tion

The FDA wrapped up its inspection of Emergent’s troubled vaccine manufacturing plant in Baltimore on Tuesday, after halting production there on Monday. By Wednesday morning, the agency already released a series of scathing observations on the cross contamination, sanitary issues and lack of staff training that caused the contract manufacturer to dispose of millions of AstraZeneca and J&J vaccine doses.

Brad Bolzon (Versant)

Ver­sant pulls the wraps off of near­ly $1B in 3 new funds out to build the next fleet of biotech star­tups. And this new gen­er­a­tion is built for speed

Brad Bolzon has an apology to offer by way of introducing a set of 3 new funds that together pack a $950 million wallop in new biotech creation and growth.

“I want to apologize,” says the Versant chairman and managing partner, laughing a little in the intro, “that we don’t have anything fancy or flashy to tell you about our new fund. Same team, around the same amount of capital, same investment strategy. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

But then there’s the flip side, where everything has changed. Or at least speeded into a relative blur. Here’s Bolzon:

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Why re­mote drug man­u­fac­tur­ing eval­u­a­tions won't re­al­ly re­duce FDA's back­log of in­spec­tions

For the first several months of the pandemic last spring, the FDA continued to plow through its user fee-enabled work on new drug and biologic applications, meeting nearly all of its goal dates.

But by last fall and into the winter, complete response letters and other delays began arriving in companies’ mailboxes as the agency struggled to catch up to a growing backlog of both domestic and foreign drug manufacturing inspections.

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From left: James Brown, Michael Chambers, John Ballantyne

Alde­vron founders back a biotech start­up that's look­ing to end the moral de­bate over cell lines once and for all

For millions of Catholics around the world, the development of new vaccines to combat Covid-19 has sparked a moral dilemma. All the approved vaccines in use relied — in some fashion — on cell lines that were derived from aborted fetal tissue.

While church leaders accepted the vaccines and recommended their use to end the pandemic, a number also highlighted their preference for the mRNA vaccines from Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna over the J&J and AstraZeneca shots, which they noted were more heavily dependent on cell lines that they found morally objectionable.

House Committee on Oversight and Reform Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney (Getty Images)

House De­moc­rats call on Emer­gent ex­ecs to tes­ti­fy on qual­i­ty is­sues next month

The House Oversight Committee is investigating Covid-19 vaccine producer Emergent BioSolutions, which secured a $628 million US government contract to make AstraZeneca and J&J vaccines despite “a long, documented history” of quality control issues, Democrats said in a letter to the contract manufacturer’s executives.

Emergent’s Baltimore plant, which was shuttered on Monday by FDA, has been embroiled in controversy after being forced to destroy millions of AstraZeneca and J&J doses due to an ingredient mix-up and possible contamination.

JP Gabriel, Ocugen

JP Gabriel watched from the bleach­ers as the pan­dem­ic raged. Now head of sup­ply chain at Ocu­gen, he's ready to bat

The world was in the middle of the most pressing public health risk his generation had ever seen, and JP Gabriel felt like he was sitting on the sidelines. As a VP of biologics and mRNA manufacturing at Ultragenyx, Gabriel watched from the sidelines as players like Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna used mRNA tech to chase their own Covid-19 vaccines.

This month, Gabriel got the chance to get his hands dirty against the pandemic — but it won’t be with mRNA.

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