Fujifilm continues CMDO expansion spree with $76M in funding for new Boston site

Fujifilm is on a manufacturing tear, announcing a third boost to its U.S. CDMO footprint in just two weeks. (stresstensor/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

That didn’t take long. Fujifilm is laying plans for a new manufacturing facility in Watertown, Massachusetts—the second it’s announced in a little over a week.

Fujifilm and The Massachusetts Center for Advanced Biological Innovation and Manufacturing (CABIM) have ginned up $76 million in funding and signed a lease for a 40,000-square-foot site at The Arsenal on the Charles business park in Watertown. Set to kick off operations in early 2022, the manufacturing-and-innovation-center-in-waiting will support research and development in cell and gene therapy, gene editing, immunotherapy and biotechnology, Fujifilm said.

Fujifilm's latest U.S. move is just part of the Japan-based company's push toward $1.8 billion in CDMO revenues by 2024, a goal sketched out during a presentation Wednesday at the annual J.P. Morgan healthcare conference. The biggest piece of that puzzle, unveiled just last week, is a $2 billion megaplant planned for a site in the U.S. 

The CABIM-partnered facility in Watertown, which will open with 40 full-time staffers, is expected to house eight clean rooms for production of cell and viral vector products, as well as quality control, lab, office and conference space. Fujifilm Diosynth, the Japanese company’s bio CDMO arm, will carry out process development and manufacturing work at the plant.

Working with CABIM, an R&D consortium that Fujifilm had a hand in establishing, the company aims to tap into the Greater Boston Area’s bustling life sciences ecosystem, with a view to training up emerging manufacturing talent.

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“Fujifilm is pleased to partner with leading academia, industry, and teaching hospitals, to explore the application of genetically modified cell therapies, and bring new treatment options to the market,” Takatoshi Ishikawa, senior EVP and chief life science officer at Fujifilm, said in a release.

CABIM has a slate of collaborators lined up, including Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and the MilliporeSigma unit of Germany’s Merck KGaA. The consortium uncloaked in 2019 and is backed by equal investments from Fujifilm, Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cytiva and Alexandria Real Estate Equities.

The new site shouldn’t be confused with a $40 million viral vector plant that Fujifilm sketched out on Jan. 5. That facility, also in Watertown, was set to become the company’s third viral-vector manufacturing site; the latest plant will make four. The first Watertown facility will start process development this fall, Fujifilm said.

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Meanwhile, Fujifilm is also plowing an eye-popping $2 billion into a large cell culture production site in the U.S., which will boast eight 20,000-liter bioreactors and have the potential for 24 more. Fujifilm Diosynth will operate the facility, which will be built out of an existing location in the U.S. The company will offer drug substance manufacturing and fill-finish services, as well as packaging and labeling, and expects the site to be up and running in the spring of 2025.

Fujifilm is on a mission to hit ¥1 trillion in healthcare revenue by the middle of the decade, COO Kenji Sukeno said during his JPM presentation this week. To get there, it’s largely banking on sales growth from its fast-growing medical systems and CDMO business, Sukeno said.

The company is gunning for ¥500 billion ($4.6 billion) in medical systems sales in 2021, which hinges on the close of Fujifilm’s $1.7 billion buyout of Hitachi’s diagnostic imaging-related business. Meanwhile, Fujifilm hopes to grow CDMO revenue to ¥200 billion ($1.8 billion) by 2024—and the company’s cash infusion spree will help it meet that goal, Sukeno said.