Kite Pharma opens CAR-T cell manufacturing plant next to LA airport

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The location of any pharma manufacturing plant is important--having it sited for optimal distribution--but it is essential with the new facilities being built to produce so-called CAR-T cell cancer treatments. That is why Kite Pharma put its new plant next to an airport.

Kite Pharma ($KITE) opened its 43,500-square-foot plant in Los Angeles this week to produce chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) and T-cell receptor (TCR) product candidates. That involves receiving from and then delivering individualized treated T cells to each patient. The facility will initially produce product for clinical trials, but will be drafted into commercial production if Kite gets its lead candidate approved and launched next year as it hopes.

Santa Monica, CA-based Kite said the plant is estimated to have the capacity to produce up to 5,000 patient therapies per year. Its location, next to the Los Angeles International Airport, was chosen, the company said in an announcement, to expedite receipt and shipment of engineered T cells from and to patients across the United States and Europe.

"Through our continuous efforts to optimize manufacturing, supply chain and quality control, our proprietary process now reduces the time from when a patient's materials are shipped to our facility to when the engineered T cells are returned to the patient to approximately 14 days, one of the fastest in the industry," Timothy Moore, Kite's executive VP of technical operations, said in a statement.

Manufacturing is a key element of those working in the field. Because they are expected to be one-time treatments, they are also anticipated to be expensive, running up to $450,000 if they are effective. Novartis ($NVS), which is leading in the field, has called its drug, which in early trials left 92% of patients cancer-free in a leukemia, "potentially curative." But because they are individualized, the manufacturing will cost much more than with other kinds of meds, which can rely on mass-production methods.

In Novartis’ case, it acquired a specialized facility from the former Dendreon, which went bankrupt trying to establish its once-promising prostate cancer vaccine Provenge. It sold its 173,000-square-foot plant in Morris Plains, NJ, one of three, to Novartis in 2012 for $43 million to pick up some fast cash. Seattle-based Juno Therapeutics ($JUNO), which has Celgene ($CELG) as an investor, is leasing a plant in Bothell, WA, which will provide clinical supplies for now and commercial-scale production later.

- here’s the Kite announcement

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