CDMO KBI picks up cell therapy plant from struggling biotech Opexa

KBI has assumed the remaining four years on a lease for the 10,200-square-foot manufacturing facility in the Houston area.

One company’s pain can lead to another’s gain, as is the case for KBI Biopharma, which has picked up a plant in Texas from struggling Opexa Therapeutics, allowing the CDMO to move into clinical stage cell therapy production.

The Woodlands, Texas-based Opexa, which is evaluating its future after an MS candidate being developed with Merck failed to meet key endpoints, today said KBI has assumed the remaining four years on a lease for the 10,200-square-foot manufacturing facility in the Houston area.

“Expansion into cell therapy development and manufacturing is a key strategic initiative for KBI,” Tim Kelly, president of KBI, said in a statement. “Cellular therapies are truly changing the course of healthcare for some of our most challenging disease indications...”

KBI, based in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, is also taking on the remaining two years of a lease on what Opexa called a “major piece of equipment.” KBI also chipped in $50,000 for Opexa's other manufacturing and laboratory equipment, the biotech said in an SEC filing today. Opexa said the lease, taxes and insurance on the facility cost it about $1 million a year. It will write off about $550,000 on the value of the property.

Opexa's chief scientific officer, Donald Healey, will become senior VP of operations for KBI at the site, as well as five other KBI employees, allowing Opexa to whack those salaries from the Opexa payroll. The biotech has eliminated most of its employees in the last year.

In its own announcement, KBI said that with the deal, it picks up fully equipped facilities for the development and manufacture of clinical stage cellular therapy products, including three ISO7 manufacturing suites, extensive flow cytometry and analytical infrastructure, as well as logistics and warehousing operations. KBI said that Opexa had successfully manufactured autologous cell therapy products for five clinical trials at the facility.

KBI has been able to expand before by acquiring another company’s surplus operations. In 2014, it bought a biologics plant in Boulder, Colorado, that Merck & Co., was disposing of and hired 30 Merck employees.

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