Years after bankruptcy, Dendreon adds a contract manufacturing wing
When CEO Jason O’Neill came aboard Dendreon just a year ago, he saw that the company was in a unique position: It occupied a rare space as one of the few end-to-end providers of cell therapy manufacturing services. And if it were to add a division of contract manufacturing arm to its operations, it would position itself as one of just four US companies that are doing so.
So with that, the Seal Beach, California-based biopharma company has established a contract manufacturing and services division to bring late-stage clinical projects through to the market.
“We have this unique kind of ability, an asset within our company, and so we explored it more deeply and realized ‘hey, we can do it,’ he said in a call with Endpoints News.
Not much will change physically about its two manufacturing sites in Seal Beach and Seattle. Just the addition of end-to-end manufacturing of cell therapies and patient logistics for partner programs.
Among Dendreon’s clients, the proposal was overwhelmingly positive, O’Neill said. But perhaps just as importantly, venture capitalist partners are equally as receptive to the idea, largely because a large amount of money to build a manufacturing site will not be needed before the drug has even been approved.
“It’s, for a lot of these guys, a great opportunity to de-risk what they’re doing and bring out a partner that actually has the credibility to move the product through the FDA,” he said.
O’Neill was tabbed as the CEO in June 2020. His résumé boasts a long list of pharma powerhouses, from Pfizer to Schering-Plough and Bristol Myers Squibb. In the 1990s, O’Neill spent nearly 10 years at Sanofi, stopped briefly at Genentech, before heading the immunology and ophthalmology at Roche.
The company’s flagship product is Provenge, a therapeutic vaccine for prostate cancer that uses a patient’s own immune cells. It has been prescribed to more than 40,000 men in the US since its approval in 2010.
The company has come a long way back since filing for bankruptcy in 2014. When it launched Provenge, it faced trouble receiving reimbursements for the drug and had pumped money into a gigantic manufacturing space because it anticipated more demand than was the reality. A 2014 article in Nature called the drug manufacturing process “cumbersome” and expensive at $93,000. Sales of the drug were just $283.7 million in 2013, far short of a projected $4.3 billion in annual sales by 2020.
“It’s kind of a nice conclusion to a rocky start for us,” O’Neill said.