AGC Biologics expands further in Colorado with purchase of Novartis Gene Therapies plant

biologic drug manufacturing
The moves comes three months after AGC charted an expansion at its cell and gene center in Milan, Italy. (AGC Biologics)

As the cell and gene revolution heats up, contract manufacturer AGC Biologics is getting ahead of the curve with plans for its second commercial plant in Colorado.

Angling to bolster cell and gene production, AGC has clinched a deal for a commercial Novartis Gene Therapies factory in Longmont, Colorado. Located just 16 miles from AGC’s 20,000-liter mammalian facility in Boulder, the new plant is expected to add “significant additional capacity,” AGC said in a release.

The move comes shortly after AGC charted an expansion at its cell and gene site in Milan, Italy, which it snared last July in its buyout of Italian CTG biotech Molecular Medicine (MolMed).

AGC hasn’t divulged the Novartis plant’s price. The company didn’t say how big it expects the Longmont workforce to be, but it will “[aim] to hire a significant percentage” of Novartis’ staff there.

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The 622,000-square-foot factory comes equipped with offices and production space across six buildings. It sits on a 229-acre campus located 40 miles north of Denver, AGC said.

Last June, AGC got its hands on its Boulder plant through similar means, picking up the commercial facility from AstraZeneca. That facility came equipped with two 20,000-liter stainless steel bioreactors, plus space to add four more in the future. That same month, AGC tied up with Novavax to scale up and produce the Matrix-M adjuvant for its late-stage COVID-19 vaccine candidate, NVX-CoV2373. 

Meanwhile, AGC has “invested heavily” in cell and gene therapies since acquiring MolMed in 2020. With the addition of two MolMed commercial plants in Italy, AGC became “one of the very few CDMOs” to include both plasmid production and end-to-end cell and gene therapy services in its manufacturing repertoire, the company noted last year.

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At the time, AGC specifically highlighted MolMed’s manufacturing know-how in genetically modified cells and viral vectors, or the engineered viruses used to deliver the cutting-edge medicines. That component, which is also used in AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson’s recombinant COVID-19 vaccines, is already in shortage, with the bottleneck expected to tighten even more unless regulators, biopharmas and contractors move fast to address production shortfalls, GlobalData said in a recent report.

And in March, AGC blueprinted an upgrade to its factory in Milan, sketching a capacity boost and the introduction of viral vector suspension capabilities. The expanded facilities should start full operations in 2022, AGC has said.