AstraZeneca taps Lonza to produce COVID-19 antibody headed for phase 3

Lonza headquarters
Lonza plans to crank out drug substance for AstraZeneca's antibody combo at its facilities in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, set to kick start operations later this year. (Lonza)

Lonza is plowing ahead in the COVID fight with manufacturing work on Moderna's mRNA-based vaccine and Humanigen's monoclonal antibody lenzilumab. Now, it's signed on to help AstraZeneca, bringing a second antibody hopeful into the fold. 

The British drugmaker tapped Lonza to produce its experimental COVID treatment AZD7442, a combination of two long-acting antibodies, the Swiss CDMO said

Lonza plans to crank out drug substance for the antibody combo at its new facilities in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, which are set to kick start operations later this year. The AZ antibody work itself is expected to start in the first half of 2021.

Under the "multimillion-dollar partnership," Lonza will focus on generating drug supply and validating the process "as rapidly as possible" for both clinical and commercial use, Mark Santos, associate director of commercial development at Lonza, said via email. 

AstraZeneca will be among the first to use Lonza's new 6,000-liter suite, which combines the "cost efficiencies" of mid-scale stainless steel bioreactors with disposable downstream technology for flexibility and speed, the CDMO said in a release. Automation and process analytic technology at the site should pave the way for greater transparency and data sharing, too, Lonza said. 

The entire Portsmouth facility staffs more than 1,000 employees, and it's growing with the new 6,000-liter mammalian suite, the Moderna mRNA suite and other expansion spaces, Santos said. 

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AstraZeneca launched a U.K. phase 1 trial of its antibody combo in late August in healthy patients. The British drugmaker plans to push the drug into phase 3 in the coming weeks, Lonza said in its release. 

Meanwhile, AstraZeneca isn't the only pandemic bigwig to team up with Lonza. Moderna in May enlisted the CDMO to boost production of its mRNA-based vaccine hopeful, mRNA-1273. Under that deal, Lonza agreed to flesh out manufacturing suites at facilities in the U.S. and Switzerland. 

Lonza officials last month told Reuters that new production lines at its Portsmouth, New Hampshire, site aimed to start churning out vaccine ingredients in November, while three lines in Visp, Switzerland, are expected to start delivering doses in December. 

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Meanwhile, in September, Lonza teamed up with Humanigen to boost manufacturing capacity for the drugmaker's COVID-fighting antibody lenzilumab. Production on lenzilumab, which is now in phase 3 testing, is pegged to start in 2021 at Lonza's 2,000-liter manufacturing facility at Hayward, California. 

More recently, the company in October said it would spend $93 million to expand its capsule manufacturing by 15% across eight sites globally, with the goal to add more than 30 billion doses to its annual capacity.