The massive growth of gene therapy research and development over the last few years has boosted demand for viral vectors, the engineered viruses used to deliver therapeutic genes into patients’ bodies.
Tokyo-based Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies is stepping up to meet that demand.
Fujifilm will invest 4 billion yen ($40 million) to build a new manufacturing facility for viral vectors in Watertown, Massachusetts, the company said Monday. It will be Fujifilm’s third viral-vector manufacturing site, joining similar facilities the company has opened in Texas and the U.K.
“We are strategically establishing this facility in the greater-Boston area where there is a high concentration of biopharmaceutical companies and academia innovating in the field of advanced therapies,” Martin Meeson, CEO of Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies, said in a statement.
Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies planted a flag in viral vectors back in 2014, when it established its Texas site in College Station. As the market started to grow, the company invested an additional 13 billion yen ($120 million) in the site. It announced in October that it would add viral-vector manufacturing capabilities to its U.K. site, expecting those services to be online this spring.
The growth of gene therapy R&D has boosted demand for advanced manufacturing capabilities to the point that investors from all facets of biopharma are stepping in to provide services. Last January, for example, Nationwide Children’s Hospital’s Abigail Wexner Research Institute (AWRI) in Columbus, Ohio, revealed a plan to build a commercial-scale gene therapy manufacturing site.
That news came just months after Harvard University said it would invest $50 million in a not-for-profit manufacturing and training facility focused on cell and viral vectors. Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies has a seat on the board of that organization, called Advanced Biological Innovation and Manufacturing.
Fujifilm is far from the only contract manufacturer answering the demand for viral vectors, either. Novartis and Pfizer ramped up their investments in gene therapy manufacturing last year. Contract manufacturers such as Catalent and Thermo Fisher Scientific are also expanding operations aimed at supporting gene therapy R&D.
Fujifilm’s Watertown site will start process development this fall, the company said. It expects to start offering contract manufacturing for early-stage clinical trials of therapies that use viral vectors in the fall of 2023.