Close to a year after Maryland-based CDMO Vigene Biosciences cut the ribbon on its headquarters, spiking demand for cell and gene therapy has prompted the company to lay out a major manufacturing upgrade in its home state.
Vigene is picking up a lease for 52,000 square feet of manufacturing space in Montgomery County, Maryland, situated near its existing headquarters in Rockville. The expansion is set to bring the company's total lab and production space up to 110,000 square feet and, by 2025, will see up to 245 new hires join Vigene's current workforce of 125.
The new facility, located at 14200 Shady Grove Road, will complement existing R&D and manufacturing operations at Vigene's home base as the company faces growing demand for its cell and gene therapy products. Vigene's expansion has snared some financial perks from the state, too, including a $1,225,000 loan from the Maryland Department of Commerce, which is contingent on job creation and capital investment.
The company is keeping its own spending on the site under wraps, Jeffrey Hung, Ph.D., chief commercial officer of Vigene, said over email. "It suffices to say that we are going to invest heavily on the facility to qualify and commission it for commercial production purpose," he added.
With the new site, Vigene will add five more GMP suites to the 10 it operates now, Hung said. Specifically, the company plans to commission and set up two 2,000-liter single-use bioreactor suites, where upstream and downstream production trains will be located on the same floor for commercial viral vector production. Another floor will house multiple large-scale fermenters for commercial plasma production, he said.
Formed in 2012, Vigene specializes in gene therapies for patients with cancers and serious genetic disorders. It develops, manufactures and distributes adeno-associated viruses, lentiviruses, retroviruses, adenoviruses and plasmid viral vectors for gene delivery.
The company has checked into the COVID-19 fight, too, signing on to produce clinical materials for Maryland compatriot Altimmune's nasal vaccine candidate. Vigene in July agreed to churn out both drug substance and drug product for studies on the vaccine, which registered for a phase 1 trial in late December.
On Dec. 23, Altimmune revealed the FDA had slapped the investigational new drug application for its vaccine, AdCOVID, with a clinical hold, citing the need for protocol modifications and additional chemistry, manufacturing and control data. The company responded to the hold and, at the time, said it didn't expect the move to significantly disrupt its clinical timeline.
Altimmune has also added Swiss CDMO Lonza as a production partner on its nasal vaccine, and it previously set the goal to crank out at least 100 million AdCOVID doses in 2021.
Meanwhile, Vigene's expansion comes shortly after the christening of its Rockville HQ. “It was just a year ago that we cut the ribbon at Vigene’s new custom-built headquarters and already the growing demand for its gene and cellular therapy products requires additional physical expansion,” Benjamin Wu, CEO and president of the company, said in a release.