UPDATED: Swiss CDMO Celonic finds a home at Novartis' Stein hub, plans to add 250 new jobs centered on next-gen drugs
The outsourcing market for cell and gene therapies has stayed red-hot in recent months as some of the biggest CDMOs — and even major drugmakers — are diving in. Now, a Swiss CDMO wants a bigger piece of the action, and it’s looking to set up shop in Novartis’ fledgling life sciences hub in Stein.
Celonic plans to build a 91,500-square-foot manufacturing center focused on cell and gene therapies, next-gen vaccines and other “innovative” drugs as part of a two-part expansion at Novartis’ Rhine Valley hub, the CDMO said last week.
The expansion will add roughly 250 workers at the site, Celonic said, as well as up to 20 manufacturing clean rooms, and lab and office space. The facility is set to open in Q2 2022, Celonic said.
Celonic makes the third drugmaker to call Novartis’ Life Science Park Rheintal in Stein — formerly just a production site — home. The area currently hosts both Novartis and Lonza, Celonic said, with as many as 2,000 employees working there.
In news that didn’t make much of a wave stateside, Novartis announced in mid-February that it planned to shift its Stein location into a life sciences hub as part of an effort to drum up investment in the Rhine Valley and establish a center of production for cell and gene therapies. Novartis itself has invested around $217 million in expansions in Stein and Schweizerhalle in 2020 and 2021, adding to its own footprint in the region.
A Novartis spokesperson said the firm was on the hunt for other companies to jump on board.
“We are basically open to all types of companies for well-known large companies as well as for small or medium-sized start-ups,” the spokesperson told Endpoints News. “We are currently in talks with potential partners whether there is interest in moving to Stein and benefiting from our wide range of services. It is important to know that this is a process that will take place over the next few years and that the change will be gradual.”
Of course, cell and gene therapies are not a new target of investment in the contract manufacturing space, with some of the biggest CDMOs making massive down payments on the tricky-to-make therapeutics.
Late last month, outsourcing giant Catalent dove even further into the field with its acquisition of plasmid DNA specialist Delphi Genetics and the launch of manufacturing services in that space at its Rockville, MD facility. Delphi, founded in 2001 and headquartered near Catalent’s facility in Gosselies, Belgium, will add a 17,000 square-foot facility to the Catalent fold specializing in all stages of clinical plasmid supply.
Back in February 2020, Catalent shelled out $315 million for cell therapy specialist MaSTherCell Global and its 32,000 square-foot facility in Houston along with a 25,000 square-foot facility in Gosselies. MaSTherCell also plotted a 60,000 square-foot addition in Belgium that’s set to open in fall 2021.
In October of last year, Catalent acquired another Gosselies cell and gene therapy player, Bone Therapeutics, and its 31,000-square-foot site for a meager $14 million. A month earlier, Catalent outlined its plans to infuse $130 million into its cell and gene therapy manufacturing facility in Harmans, MD, specifically targeting late clinical-stage supply.
Meanwhile, even the big drugmakers are writing checks to double down in the space. In February, Bristol Myers Squibb said it will add a 244,000 square-foot cell therapy manufacturing facility at its Devens, MA site as it looks to grow its production capacity around newly approved liso-cel and, potentially, ide-cel in the coming weeks.
The 89-acre Devens site in the Boston area will hold the fourth in-house cell therapy manufacturing site for Bristol, alongside facilities in Bothell, WA; and Warren and Summit, NJ. Bristol also counts contract partners in the EU and Japan as part of its cell therapy network.