Fred Parietti, Multiply CEO and co-founder

Q&A: Through ro­bot­ics, Fred Pari­et­ti and team look to fix cell ther­a­py's fu­ture

There’s a bot­tle­neck in man­u­fac­tur­ing right now, and per­haps the cat­e­go­ry that is the best rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the is­sue is cell and gene ther­a­py. Sev­er­al com­pa­nies are try­ing dif­fer­ent things to ad­dress the is­sue, but Mul­ti­ply Labs has en­list­ed some CD­MO pow­er­hous­es on its path to­ward the au­toma­tion of the process.

Cy­ti­va and the Uni­ver­si­ty of Cal­i­for­nia-San Fran­cis­co were al­ready mem­bers of the ro­bot­ic cell ther­a­py man­u­fac­tur­ing con­sor­tium Mul­ti­ply, found­ed in 2021. Last week, it was an­nounced that Ther­mo Fish­er Sci­en­tif­ic and Charles Riv­er Lab­o­ra­to­ries have joined the team to help de­vel­op a cGMP-com­pli­ant sys­tem that can make gene-mod­i­fied cell ther­a­pies at an in­di­vid­ual scale.

I sat down with Mul­ti­ply’s CEO and co-founder Fred Pari­et­ti to talk more about this. Here’s our con­ver­sa­tion.

Con­grat­u­la­tions on this news!

We’re very ex­cit­ed, it’s very good to be able to an­nounce these new part­ners, but al­so show a lit­tle bit more of the ro­bots. When you see them in per­son, it’s al­ways a lit­tle more im­pres­sive, but right now, it feels good to do an an­nounce­ment.

Can you walk me through the ear­ly stages of Mul­ti­ply and the con­sor­tium?

We are all ro­bot­ics peo­ple … 95% of us. And when I say ro­bot­ics peo­ple, I say me­chan­i­cal en­gi­neers and com­put­er sci­en­tists. Some of us were at self-dri­ving com­pa­nies. Oth­er peo­ple were at ro­bot­ic arm com­pa­nies. And so we saw a trend to­ward spe­cial­ized med­i­cine … and as ro­bot­ics peo­ple, we be­lieve very strong­ly that the on­ly way to do that ef­fi­cient­ly is with cut­ting edge au­toma­tion.

That’s how we got in the cell ther­a­py space, and as ro­bot­ics peo­ple with GMP ex­pe­ri­ence … which is very very unique. Very few ro­bot­ics peo­ple ac­tu­al­ly know whaat GMP man­u­fac­tur­ing is … And as ro­bot­ics peo­ple, we knew in cell ther­a­py, the process is so im­por­tant.

What does this mean in prac­ti­cal terms? Phar­ma com­pa­nies and large CD­MOs are used to us­ing state-of-the-art equip­ment. These are the in­stru­ments they brought to GMP … and so if we start­ed do­ing this from all scratch, it would be a gi­gan­tic amount of un­knowns. First of all, no­body knows if the cells are go­ing to work in your equip­ment. Sec­ond, you are back to square one from the point of view of reg­u­la­to­ry stan­dards. And that’s the rea­son we de­cid­ed to go with a very mod­u­lar ap­proach, and why you’re see­ing all these part­ners that are the man­u­fac­tur­ers of the cur­rent state of the GMP in­stru­ments. Our ro­bots talk to all of these mod­ules.

Where in the process did you de­cide to meet man­u­fac­tur­ing where it al­ready was? Was that ear­ly on?

It was right from the start. Right from the start when we start­ed work­ing on cell ther­a­py, it was very clear that us­ing proven GMP in­stru­ments was go­ing to be es­sen­tial if we want to make it hap­pen. It’s a very unique en­gi­neer­ing ap­proach in which we use what’s proven now, and we add a lay­er of in­for­ma­tion on top of it, but with­out sub­trac­tion. With­out forc­ing the cells to work in a new con­di­tion, be­cause you don’t know how they’re go­ing to re­act.

I know the com­pa­ny start­ed in 2021…

The con­sor­tium start­ed then. The com­pa­ny has been around since 2016. In the first years, we fo­cused most­ly on small mol­e­cules. Now we do both small mol­e­cule man­u­fac­tur­ing and ro­bot­ic based cell ther­a­py man­u­fac­tur­ing.

With Covid-19 putting sup­ply chain is­sues and bot­tle­necks on dis­play for the lay­man to see on a glob­al dis­play, what is on your mind when you’re tak­ing steps to solve this prob­lem and then you see it thrust on­to the glob­al stage?

Covid was kind of like a turn­ing point, evening though we don’t work with any­thing that’s strict­ly Covid-re­lat­ed. Covid was ba­si­cal­ly a change in mind­set for the in­dus­try. First of all, it showed that phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal man­u­fac­tur­ing is crit­i­cal, and you bet­ter think about it. Right? And think about very good, scal­able, crit­i­cal so­lu­tions. We don’t even need to pitch peo­ple on this right now, they reach out to us and say we want to au­to­mate.

To be more re­silient, now every ma­jor phar­ma and CD­MO is mak­ing sup­ply chain in at least three con­ti­nents: Asia, North Amer­i­ca and Eu­rope. I think this is kind of like the base­line. Be­fore, I think peo­ple were try­ing to ad­dress the glob­al mar­ket with a sin­gle lo­ca­tion, but right now, I think that’s not pos­si­ble. It’s per­fect for a ro­bot­ics ap­proach, be­cause we can ship and in­stall the ro­bots any­where on the plan­et, and they in­stant­ly make those fa­cil­i­ties more ef­fi­cient. From that point of view, I think ro­bot­ics is a very good an­swer to our sup­ply chain prob­lems.

Vas Narasimhan (Photographer: Jason Alden/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

No­var­tis de­tails plans to axe 8,000 staffers as Narasimhan be­gins sec­ond phase of a glob­al re­org

We now know the number of jobs coming under the axe at Novartis, and it isn’t small.

The pharma giant is confirming a report from Swiss newspaper Tages-Anzeiger that it is chopping 8,000 jobs out of its 108,000 global staffers. A large segment will hit right at company headquarters in Basel, as CEO Vas Narasimhan axes some 1,400 of a little more than 11,000  jobs in Switzerland.

The first phase of the work is almost done, the company says in a statement to Endpoints News. Now it’s on to phase two. In the statement, Novartis says:

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 144,600+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Sanofi to cut in­sulin prices for unin­sured from $99 to $35, match­ing the in­sulin cap com­ing through Con­gress

As the House-passed bill to cap the monthly price of insulin at $35 nationwide makes its way for a Senate vote soon, Sanofi announced Wednesday morning that beginning next month it will cut the monthly price of its insulins for uninsured Americans to $35, down from $99 previously.

The announcement from Sanofi, which allows the uninsured to buy one or multiple Sanofi insulins (Lantus, Insulin Glargine U-100, Toujeo, Admelog, and Apidra) at $35 for a 30-day supply effective July 1, follows House passage (232-193) of the monthly cap in March, with just 12 Republicans voting in favor of the measure.

How pre­pared is bio­phar­ma for the cy­ber dooms­day?

One of the largest cyberattacks in history happened on a Friday, Eric Perakslis distinctly remembers.

Perakslis, who was head of Takeda’s R&D Data Sciences Institute and visiting faculty at Harvard Medical School at the time, had spent that morning completing a review on cybersecurity for the British Medical Journal. Moments after he turned it in, he heard back from the editor: “Have you heard what’s going on right now?”

Endpoints Premium

Premium subscription required

Unlock this article along with other benefits by subscribing to one of our paid plans.

Bob Nelsen (Lyell)

As bear mar­ket con­tin­ues to beat down biotech, ARCH clos­es a $3B ear­ly-stage fund

One of the biggest names in biotech investing has a whole lot of new money to spend.

ARCH Venture Partners closed its 12th venture fund early Wednesday morning, the firm said, bringing in almost $3 billion to invest in early-stage biotechs. The move comes about a year and a half after ARCH announced its previous fund, for almost $2 billion back in January 2021.

In a statement, ARCH managing director and co-founder Bob Nelsen appeared to brush off concerns about the broader market troubles, alluding to the downturn that’s seen several biotechs downsize and the XBI fall back to almost pre-pandemic levels.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 144,600+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Aurobindo Pharma co-founders P. V. Ram Prasad Reddy (L) and K. Nityananda Reddy

Au­robindo Phar­ma re­ceives warn­ing let­ter from In­di­a's SEC fol­low­ing more FDA ques­tion marks

Indian-based generics manufacturer Aurobindo Pharma has been in the crosshairs of the FDA for several years now, but the company is also attracting attention from regulators within the subcontinent.

According to the Indian business news site Business Standard, a warning letter was sent to the company from the Securities Exchange Board of India, or SEBI.

The letter is related to disclosures made by the company on an ongoing FDA audit of the company’s Unit-1 API facility in Hyderabad, India as well as observations made by the US regulator between 2019 and 2022.

Lina Gugucheva, NewAmsterdam Pharma CBO

Phar­ma group bets up to $1B-plus on the PhI­II res­ur­rec­tion of a once dead-and-buried LDL drug

Close to 5 years after then-Amgen R&D chief Sean Harper tamped the last spade of dirt on the last broadly focused CETP cholesterol drug — burying their $300 million upfront and the few remaining hopes for the class with it — the therapy has been fully resurrected. And today, the NewAmsterdam Pharma crew that did the Lazarus treatment on obicetrapib is taking another big step on the comeback trail with a €1 billion-plus regional licensing deal, complete with close to $150 million in upfront cash.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 144,600+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

(AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe)

Some phar­ma com­pa­nies promise to cov­er abor­tion-re­lat­ed trav­el costs — while oth­ers won't go that far yet

As the US Department of Health and Human Services promises to support the millions of women who would now need to cross state lines to receive a legal abortion, a handful of pharma companies have said they will pick up employees’ travel expenses.

GSK, Sanofi, Johnson & Johnson, BeiGene, Alnylam and Gilead have all committed to covering abortion-related travel expenses just four days after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and revoked women’s constitutional right to an abortion.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 144,600+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

New Charles River Laboratories High Quality (HQ) Plasmid DNA Centre of Excellence at Bruntwood SciTech’s Alderley Park in Cheshire, United Kingdom. (Charles River)

Charles Riv­er Lab­o­ra­to­ries to start cell and gene ther­a­py man­u­fac­tur­ing at UK site in Sep­tem­ber

While Massachusetts-based Charles River Laboratories has been on an acquisition spree, they are not against planting their flag. The latest move by the company sees them crossing the pond to establish a manufacturing site in the UK.

The company on Tuesday opened its cell and gene therapy manufacturing center at Bruntwood SciTech’s Alderley Park in Cheshire, United Kingdom. The expansion follows Charles River’s acquisition of Cognate BioServices and Cobra Biologics in 2021 for $875 million. Cognate is a plasmid DNA, viral vector and cell therapy CDMO.

Bristol Myers Squibb (Alamy)

CVS re­sumes cov­er­age of block­buster blood thin­ner af­ter price drop fol­lows Jan­u­ary ex­clu­sion

Following some backlash from the American College of Cardiology and patients, Bristol Myers Squibb and Pfizer lowered the price of their blockbuster blood thinner Eliquis, thus ensuring that CVS Caremark would cover the drug after 6 months of it being off the major PBM’s formulary.

“Because we secured lower net costs for patients from negotiations with the drug manufacturer, Eliquis will be added back to our template formularies for the commercial segment effective July 1, 2022, and patient choices will be expanded,” CVS Health said in an emailed statement. “Anti-coagulant therapies are among the non-specialty products where we are seeing the fastest cost increases from drug manufacturers and we will continue to push back on unwarranted price increases.”