Keen to stay out front in cell therapy, Gilead's Kite builds its own viral vector manufacturing operations
Days after wooing Christi Shaw to the helm at Kite, Gilead is once again touting just how serious it is about growing its pioneering CAR-T and follow-up cell therapy business. The subsidiary is building a new facility dedicated to viral vector manufacturing within a biologics site at Oceanside, California.
Right now, Kite gets it viral vectors — critical starting material for editing the T cells to activate cancer-killing capabilities — from contract manufacturers, said Tim Moore, EVP of technical operations. But amid a cell therapy boom, the limits that place on commercial supply and development is becoming more apparent.
It’s not about exiting those pacts all together, Moore emphasized; rather, the new, 67,000-square-foot facility be complementary to what’s already in place.
“We can still leverage external manufacturing capabilities but it’s going to help accelerate our capabilities and highlight our leadership in cell therapy by leaving no stone unturned,” he told me.
Under former CEO John Milligan, Gilead had initiated an aggressive expansion on the cell therapy manufacturing front, plotting sites in the Netherlands, Maryland and California last May. Daniel O’Day took it a notch up, revealing in his first analyst call weeks ago that bringing in a new CEO for the standalone Kite would be a top priority. And he went for an industry heavyweight in Shaw, the recent president of Eli Lilly’s BioMedicines unit who has a personal story to tell about cancer.
Kite expects to have the Oceanside site complete and licensed in the second half of 2021, Moore said. There will be some hiring for day-to-day operations, though he didn’t specify how many.
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