Astellas opens new $100M gene therapy production plant

Japan’s Astellas Pharma completed construction of a $100 million gene therapy manufacturing plant located in Sanford, North Carolina.

Work on the 135,000-square-foot facility, which will support Astellas’ clinical- and commercial-scale production of its adeno-associated virus (AAV) vectors for gene therapies, began back in late 2019 by biotech Audentes Therapeutics.

Astellas acquired Audentes in a $3 billion deal at the same time the first elements of construction were underway. The site is expected to create 200 new jobs, the company said.

“This new facility is a key enabler of our mission to develop safe, effective and transformative gene therapies as swiftly as possible,” Mathew Pletcher, an Astellas senior vice president, said in a statement. “Sanford's manufacturing capabilities will allow us to produce materials for multiple programs in parallel as opposed to in sequence and offer commercial-scale manufacturing ability to any future approved therapies.”

The Audentes buy was part of Astellas’ push into gene therapies, which occurred just weeks after the Japanese drugmaker made a $120 million down payment on Xyphos, an early-stage biotech that has engineered the NKG2D receptor to be inactive until it comes into contact with a bispecific, a trigger it intends to use in CAR-T therapies.

Just last week, Astellas shelled out $20.5 million to partner with GO Therapeutics to develop antibodies with high affinity to two different targets. The deal is between Xyphos Biosciences and GO. Xyphos, located on the West Coast, focuses on technology for controlling cell therapies.