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Pfizer goes big on gene therapy with $500m facility spend

Continues to build on its growing gene therapy business

Pfizer

Pfizer has made a strong statement about its commitment to the gene therapy market with the announcement of a $500m facility in the US that when complete will employ 300 staff.

The new manufacturing plant will be located at Pfizer’s facility in Sanford, North Carolina, where it already produces vaccines including its blockbuster childhood immunisation Prevnar 13 and several experimental shots, and currently employs around 650 people.

The new capacity will be devoted to making “one-time gene therapies that use custom-made recombinant adeno-associated virus (rAAV) vectors”, said the company.

Pfizer has made no secret of its plan to build up its gene therapy business over the last few years, saying back in 2014 that it intended to set up a dedicated R&D operation in the fast-emerging treatment category.

That was followed swiftly by a partnership with Spark Therapeutics that brought in a clinical-stage haemophilia B therapy now in phase 3 testing, and another deal with Sangamo for a haemophilia A candidate that recently reported encouraging phase 1/2 results.

Pfizer also added to its stable with the $700m acquisition of gene therapy specialist Bamboo Therapeutics, which added an rAAV platform as well as candidates for giant axonal neuropathy and Duchenne muscular dystrophy. It also took a 15% stake in Vivet Therapeutics and its lead programme for Wilson disease, a devastating rare, chronic and potentially life-threatening liver disorder.

Meanwhile, Pfizer has also been stripping out businesses it sees as lying outside its core focus of innovative medicines, selling off its older and generic drugs to Mylan earlier this year and combining its consumer health operations in a joint venture with GlaxoSmithKline in 2018.

Those deals came as big pharma companies have been on something of a buying spree for gene therapy companies in the last couple of years, anxious not to be left behind as the sector starts to mature.

Just this year, for example, Roche agreed to buy Spark for $4.3bn – although it is still struggling to get the deal over the wire – while Biogen snapped up Nightstar Therapeutics for $800m.

The $500m investment in Stanford “will further strengthen Pfizer’s leadership in gene therapy manufacturing technology”, said Mike McDermott, Pfizer’s head of manufacturing.

“The expansion of the Sanford site is expected to create hundreds of highly skilled jobs, which would increase Sanford’s high-tech manufacturing environment and is part of our overall plan to invest approximately $5bn in US-based capital projects over the next several years.”

Article by
Phil Taylor

22nd August 2019

From: Sales

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