CDMO Celonic to beef up cell and gene therapy work at up-and-coming Novartis hub

Like many CDMOs these days, Switzerland's Celonic aims to make a big splash in cell and gene therapy—and it's picked up space at an emerging Novartis life sciences hub to take that work to the next level. 

Celonic sewed up a long-term lease for production and office space in the WST-222 building of Novartis’ hub-to-be in Stein, Switzerland, dubbed Life Science Park Rheintal. The company will use the 91,500-square-foot location to set up production capacity for cell and gene therapies, next-generation vaccines and “innovative biopharmaceuticals.”

Celonic is adding up to 20 clean room suites, plus offices and laboratories for process development, method development and quality control for clients from early-stage work to market. It will also sign around 250 new employees to staff the site, which should be ready for production by the second quarter of 2022.

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The company hopes to offer large-scale manufacturing of so-called advanced therapies—drugs derived from genes, tissues or cells—by early next year, CEO Konstantin Matentzoglu said in a release.

Outside of Stein, Celonic is also building out a manufacturing facility for gene vectors and cell therapies at its site in Basel, Switzerland, according to the company’s website. The plant will eventually be equipped to handle process development and optimization up to early commercialization, as well as clinical production.

Celonic joins the Novartis site alongside 2,000 staffers from three pharma and biotech firms working in research, development and production.

Novartis in February unveiled plans to convert its Stein production site into a life sciences park, with an emphasis on cell and gene therapy production. Between 2020 and 2021, the company has plowed more than 200 million Swiss francs ($218 million) into its locations in Stein and Schweizerhalle. 

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Drugmakers and CDMOs alike have moved on cell and gene therapy manufacturing expansions in recent months. Just this week, China-based Pharmaron agreed to pay AbbVie $118.7 million for Allergan Biologics' manufacturing plant in Liverpool, England—fueling cell and gene therapy ambitions that kicked off with the buyout of Absorption Systems in November. 

Catalent in February said it would pick up plasmid DNA specialist Delphi Genetics, speeding plasmid production at the company's Rockville, Maryland site. Meanwhile, Bristol Myers Squibb, fresh off its Breyanzi approval, is building a 244,000-square-foot cell therapy site at its 89-acre campus in Devens, Massachusetts—and those are just a few recent examples.