Lonza looking to build on 'differentiated advantage' in Covid-19, CDMO marketplace in 2021
It’s not new for Lonza, the Swiss CDMO nearing its quasquicentennial anniversary, to be in the upper echelon of the biotech manufacturing industry.
But 2020 — as it was for many CDMOs — was a special year even by Lonza’s standards. The company inked a deal to produce 1 billion worldwide doses of Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine and tapped pharma vet Pierre-Alain Ruffieux to lead its operations, moves which have allowed Lonza to make a myriad of other deals that will continue to ramp up its global production capacity.
In an exclusive interview with Endpoints News, Lonza’s CCO Jean-Christophe Hyvert said the company has no plans to slow down anytime soon.
“A big piece of the activity has been surrounded around Covid, both in terms of supporting clients when we can, and when we have a differentiated advantage in the COVID development effort,” Hyvert said. “And we do that across multiple clients.”
Lonza’s footprint in Covid-19 therapeutics goes beyond the Moderna vaccine agreement. The company has received some 200 inquiries from biotechs across the globe and has public deals with five other companies for varying treatment possibilities.
Beyond Covid-19, Hyvert said Lonza’s focus in 2021 and beyond will be on ensuring its operations are up-to-date with the burgeoning manufacturing industry. Those industry trends, he said, are driven by a market that centers on a pipeline of strong new drug candidates and an increasing global presence within that pipeline.
“The pipeline of new drugs is very strong, and the pipeline of new drugs is becoming more and more global,” Hyvert said. “So we are evolving in terms of more drugs coming from different geographies, in terms of … more formats, (and) in terms of the speed to development and delivery is increasing. We need to respond to all of that, and that’s what we are doing.”
Tangible examples of that response have come in recent months, perhaps most notably through Lonza’s acquisition of its first biologics manufacturing in China as part of a deal with Cytiva, announced just two weeks ago. The nearly 183,000-square-foot site includes nearly 70,000-square feet of lab space that will prioritize antibody development and manufacturing services.
And in December, Lonza announced six different manufacturing and development collaborations with various biotech outfits, as well as a Visp, Switzerland expansion that will boost its production capacity by 30% by the first half of 2022.
“We are expanding in China, especially on the biologics side. We’ve been in the country for a few years, but we do believe there is a very strong potential in China,” Hyvert said. “(This) will provide us a very comprehensive, real-world coverage with clinical and commercial capabilities in … the Americas, Europe and Asia, so that’s part of what we are doing. And at the same time, I think it’s important to note that we are developing the breadth of our offerings in terms of modalities.”
That expansion of client-offerings seems to be three-tiered: microbial therapeutics, mRNA technologies, and bioconjugation. The Visp expansions also seem to be the center of all three of these focuses, as they touch on microbial development, while housing production sites for the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine that uses mRNA technology, and finally focusing bioconjugation efforts to make more complex protein therapies.
“I think we have a unique offering that helps both large pharma and small biotech with either their development needs or manufacturing needs,” Hyvert said. “We are solving more and more complex problems for our clients, and I see that as being very well received in the marketplace.”
Going forward, Hyvert said he expects the current market trends of a strong drug pipeline with a global focus to stick around. Lonza’s role, then, will be to continuously respond and adapt to those trends to ensure its services stay relevant and effective.
“I think we need to keep on building on what differentiates us, which is technical expertise, reliability, know-how, a wide range of offerings to respond to needs, our understanding of regulation and markets to respond to costs, or to help customers to bring their drugs to market,” Hyvert said. “I think these fundamental trends are not changing, (so) I think the way we are addressing them will be more and more important.”
Here are Lonza’s Covid-19 deals to keep an eye on:
- Molecule: CAP-1002, cell therapy candidate with Capricor for treating Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy and complications arising from COVID-19, treatment
- Intranasal vaccine: AdCOVID with Altimmune
- Vaccine: Moderna Covid-19 vaccine, previously known as mRNA-1273
- Molecule: AZD7442 with AstraZeneca, a combination of two long-acting antibodies
- Therapy: Lenzilumab anti-human granulocyte macrophage-colony stimulating factor, with Humanigen
- Molecule: Licensing agreement for JS016, a GS Xceed Expression System with Junshi Biosciences