Emily Leproust, Twist

Twist Bio­science plots its 'fac­to­ry of the fu­ture' in Ore­gon, seeks to ex­pand syn­thet­ic DNA client base

One of the lead­ing play­ers at the fore­front of syn­thet­ic DNA pro­duc­tion, Cal­i­for­nia-based Twist Bio­science has al­ready had a busy 2020. Now, seek­ing to ex­pand its client base and tech­nol­o­gy ca­pa­bil­i­ties even fur­ther, it’s build­ing its “fac­to­ry of the fu­ture.”

Twist, which man­u­fac­tures syn­thet­ic DNA by writ­ing it on a sil­i­con chip plat­form, will build a 110,000-square-foot fa­cil­i­ty near Port­land, Ore­gon, that will more than dou­ble its cur­rent pro­duc­tion ca­pac­i­ty by the time the fa­cil­i­ty is op­er­a­tional in 2022.

Emi­ly Lep­roust, Twist co-founder and CEO, said in a state­ment that the fac­to­ry will al­low Twist to serve client pop­u­la­tions in the biotech sphere that it sim­ply can’t with the com­pa­ny’s cur­rent pro­duc­tion ca­pac­i­ty—hence the name “fac­to­ry of the fu­ture.”

“We are ex­pand­ing our cus­tomer base and ramp­ing pro­duc­tion of our prod­ucts at an ex­cep­tion­al rate,” she said. “The (fac­to­ry) al­lows us to sup­port the in­creas­ing needs of our cus­tomers as they scale glob­al­ly and plan for ag­gres­sive growth in­to syn­thet­ic bi­ol­o­gy and bio­phar­ma mar­ket seg­ments we can­not serve to­day.”

The cap­i­tal out­lay as­so­ci­at­ed with the fa­cil­i­ty, lo­cat­ed more specif­i­cal­ly in Wilsonville, was kept un­der wraps. How­ev­er, Twist said it ex­pect­ed the plant to bring some 400 jobs to the area by the time it’s up and run­ning.

Be­yond its “fac­to­ry of the fu­ture,” Twist has had a busy 2020. Most re­cent­ly, the com­pa­ny in Oc­to­ber an­nounced a col­lab­o­ra­tion with Neo­gene to study CAR-T and TCR ther­a­pies for can­cer pa­tients. Twist will cre­ate a TCR li­brary — a self-pro­claimed “li­brary of li­braries” — to aid Neo­gene’s search for en­gi­neered TCRs against tar­gets in can­cer, and Twist will al­so use the li­brary to dis­cov­er an­ti­bod­ies for fu­ture Neo­gene CAR-T can­di­dates.

In Ju­ly, the com­pa­ny tapped Erin Smith to be its se­nior vice pres­i­dent of gov­ern­ment af­fairs and pub­lic pol­i­cy, a new­ly-cre­at­ed po­si­tion. Smith had pre­vi­ous­ly helped lead the ex­pan­sion of a gov­ern­ment af­fairs pro­gram at Gilead.

And in Feb­ru­ary, Twist and Lep­roust spent $22.5 mil­lion to set­tle one of the biggest is­sues hang­ing over the com­pa­ny — a four-year le­gal bat­tle over Lep­roust’s de­par­ture from Ag­i­lent. Ag­i­lent, a 20-year old syn­thet­ic DNA man­u­fac­tur­er, al­leged that Lep­roust mis­ap­pro­pri­at­ed trade se­crets and was in breach of con­tract when she left Ag­i­lent to start Twist with co-founders Bill Banyai and Bill Peck.

In that set­tle­ment, nei­ther Ag­i­lent nor Twist ad­mit­ted any li­a­bil­i­ty or wrong­do­ing.

Pi­o­neer­ing Click Chem­istry in Hu­mans

Reimagining cancer treatments

Cancer is a leading cause of death worldwide, accounting for nearly 10 million deaths in 2020, which is nearly one in six deaths. Recently, we have seen incredible advances in novel cancer therapies such as immune checkpoint inhibitors, cell therapies, and antibody-drug conjugates that have revamped cancer care and improved survival rates for patients.

Despite this significant progress in therapeutic targeting, why are we still seeing such a high mortality rate? The reason is that promising therapies are often limited by their therapeutic index, which is a measure of the effective dose of a drug, relative to its safety. If we could broaden the therapeutic indices of currently available medicines, it would revolutionize cancer treatments. We are still on the quest to find the ultimate cancer medicine – highly effective in several cancer types, safe, and precisely targeted to the tumor site.

Gilead names 'k­ing­pin­s' in coun­ter­feit HIV med law­suit

Gilead is mounting its counterfeit drug lawsuit, naming two “kingpins” and a complex network of conspirators who allegedly sold imitation bottles of its HIV meds, some of which ended up in US pharmacies.

The pharma giant on Wednesday provided an update on what it called a “large-scale, sophisticated counterfeiting conspiracy,” accusing two new defendants of “leading and orchestrating” a scheme to sell hundreds of millions of dollars in illegitimate drugs posing as meds such as Biktarvy and Descovy.

Ivan Cheung, Eisai US chairman and CEO

Bio­gen, Ei­sai re­fresh amy­loid hy­poth­e­sis with PhI­II show­ing Alzheimer's med slows cog­ni­tive de­cline

In the first look at Phase III data for lecanemab, Eisai and Biogen’s follow-up Alzheimer’s drug to the embattled Aduhelm launch, results show the drug passed with flying colors on a test looking at memory, problem solving and other dementia metrics.

One of the most-watched Alzheimer’s therapies in the clinic, lecanemab met the study’s primary goal on the CDR-SB — Clinical Dementia Rating-Sum of Boxes — giving the biotech the confidence to ask for full approval in the US, EU and Japan by next March 31. The experimental drug reduced clinical decline on the scale by 27% compared to placebo at 18 months, the companies said Tuesday night Eastern time and Wednesday morning in Japan.

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Work taking place in the clean rooms at Vor (Credit: Vor)

Vor Bio opts to keep man­u­fac­tur­ing op­er­a­tions in-house for de­vel­op­ing stem cell, CAR-T ther­a­pies

While it is not uncommon for a biotech to go down the route of having the product manufactured by a contract organization, one small biotech is looking to keep its card close to its chest.

Vor Biopharma has started manufacturing operations at an in-house facility at its HQ in Cambridge, MA after beginning construction last summer.

According to the biotech, the facility aims to develop Vor’s hematopoietic stem cells (eHSCs) and CAR-T therapies for patients with blood cancers. The site will initially manufacture a clinical supply of its candidate VCAR33allo to support its IND, which is slated to be submitted in the first half of next year. It also plans to transfer the production of VOR33 to the facility. Vor is getting to work quickly as engineering runs for VCAR33allo has started this week.

Nooman Haque, head of life sciences and healthcare at Silicon Valley Bank, and John Carroll

I’m head­ed to Lon­don soon for #EU­BIO22. Care to join me?

It was great getting back to a live ESMO conference/webinar in Paris followed by a live pop-up event for the Endpoints 11 in Boston. We’re staying on the road in October with our return for a live/streaming EUBIO22 in London.

Silicon Valley Bank’s Nooman Haque and I are once again jumping back into the thick of it with a slate of virtual and live events on October 12. I’ll get the ball rolling with a virtual fireside chat with Novo Nordisk R&D chief Marcus Schindler, covering their pipeline plans and BD work.

Tar­sus looks to raise aware­ness of eye­lid mite dis­ease in cam­paign aimed at eye­care spe­cial­ists

Eyelid mite disease may be “gross” but it’s also fairly common, affecting about 25 million people in the US.

Called demodex blepharitis, it’s a well-known condition among eyecare professionals, but they often don’t always realize how common it is. Tarsus Pharmaceuticals wants to change that with a new awareness campaign called “Look at the Lids.”

The campaign and website debut Thursday — just three weeks after Tarsus filed for FDA approval for a drug that treats the disease.

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Elisabeth Stampa, Medicines for Europe president

As win­ter ap­proach­es, a Eu­ro­pean gener­ics group rais­es alarm over en­er­gy prices for man­u­fac­tur­ers

While colder temperatures are fast approaching, the situation surrounding the rise of energy prices in Europe is hitting businesses of every kind, including generic drug manufacturers.

Medicines for Europe, a group that represents the generic industry on the continent, sent a letter addressed to energy ministers and commissioners concerning inflation and the costs of energy on the supply of generic medicines.

Vlad Coric, Biohaven CEO (Photo Credit: Andrew Venditti)

As Amy­lyx de­ci­sion waits in the wings, Bio­haven’s ALS drug sinks (again) in plat­form tri­al

The FDA’s decision on Amylyx’s ALS drug is set to come out sometime Thursday. In a space with few drugs, any approval would be a major landmark.

But elsewhere in the ALS field, things are a bit more tepid.

Thursday morning, Biohaven announced that its drug verdiperstat failed its arm of an ALS platform trial led by Massachusetts General Hospital. According to a press release, the drug did not meet its primary endpoint — improvement on an ALS functional status test — or any key secondary endpoints at 24 weeks. The trial had enrolled 167 patients, giving them either verdiperstat or placebo twice a day.

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Man­u­fac­tur­ing roundup: Ace­to re­brands to Actylis; WuXi STA opens an­oth­er fa­cil­i­ty

A New York-based manufacturer has rebranded after netting several acquisitions in the past few years.

Aceto, a manufacturer of ingredients and raw materials, has rebranded to Actylis. The move will bring all 10 acquisitions the company has made in the past several years under one banner.

“Actylis unites multiple industry specialists with a wide range of capabilities into a new, global enterprise with a unique hybrid approach that is greater than the sum of its parts. This consolidation enables us to offer customers across diverse locations and industries highly flexible, customized solutions addressing their specific needs while assuring reliable on-time delivery of the high-quality ingredients essential to their success,” said CEO Gilles Cottier in a statement.