Korean biotechs snatch U.S. stem cell manufacturing facility

Stem cells
Two Korean biotechs have paid $11.1 million to buy the stem cell manufacturing facilities of Argos Therapeutics in Durham, North Carolina. (FDA)

A pair of Korean biotechs have teamed up to buy stem cell manufacturing facilities and other assets of a failed U.S. biotech to establish a foothold in the U.S.

SCM Life Science and Genexine have paid 12.5 billion won ($11.1 million) for the 20,000-square-foot manufacturing site, research and intellectual property of Durham, North Carolina-based Argos Therapeutics, the Korea Biomedical Review reports.

Argos had its stock delisted and essentially closed up shop last year after its dendritic cell-based personalized kidney cancer vaccine failed a phase 3 trial. Argos will be retagged CoImmune and its work will be combined with that of SCM and Genexine, both of which are doing work in immnotherapies.

SCM has a patent for immune disease-specific, next-generation stem cell manufacturing technology. Genexine says it is a clinical stage biotech working in immunotherapeutics and novel long-acting biologics. A new strategy for CoImmune will be mapped out after SCM and Genexine have a chance to discuss new indications with Argos researchers, the publication said.

RELATED: Biotech that bought GlaxoSmithKline's 'bubble boy' drug is building stem cell manufacturing facility in U.S.

“Through the acquisition of Argos, the company plans to build a production facility for cGMP cell therapy in the U.S. and produce a high-purity stem cell treatment drug using the company’s layer separation culture technology,” SCM Life Science CEO Rhee Byung-gun said in a statement, according to Korea Biomedical Review.

Argos Therapeutics was told in 2017 that it should give up its phase 3 trial of the kidney cancer vaccine due to futility. The phase 3 trial tested its candidate rocapuldencel-T in combination with Pfizer's Sutent in patients with newly diagnosed metastatic renal cell carcinoma. It pressed on, leaving the study open while it examined data with the FDA, but then conceded last year.

Other biotechs also are setting up U.S. stem cell manufacturing. Orchard Therapeutics is spending up to $90 million on a 150,000-square-foot facility in Fremont, California. Denmark's Novo Nordisk paid $2 million to lease a facility in Fremont from stem cell biotech Asterias Biotherapeutics.