Lonza partners up to research new bioprocessing methods

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Lonza figures biotechnology and big data will converge to improve production of individualized treatments and wants to be at the center of that movement. (Pixabay)

New individualized drugs like the CAR-T treatments from Novartis and Gilead require a radically different approach to manufacturing. CDMO Lonza intends to be able to handle that for clients and has opened a collaboration center in Israel to get it to that point.

The Swiss company Monday said it has opened its 1,000-square-meter (10,764-square-foot) Collaborative Innovation Center (CIC) in the Haifa Life Science Park in Israel. It said the CIC will be a “hub for partnerships to identify and accelerate new solutions for biopharma manufacturing.”

The facility includes lab space and bioprocessing and analytical equipment for partners to use as a “test bed for new ideas and technology.” In addition to infrastructure, Lonza said it will provide funding and in-house expertise for research into a variety of strategic areas. The company declined to say what it invested in the center.

“Israel has established itself as a point of convergence for digital technologies, engineering and life sciences, providing new solutions for healthcare in particular,” said Marc Funk, COO Lonza Pharma & Biotech. “We want to expand this potential to reimagine the development and manufacturing of future medicines by working with academic institutions, teaching hospitals and startups.”

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Lonza is focusing on three areas, expression systems and synthetic biology, use of big data for better in-line testing and predictive analytics in bioprocessing, and cell and gene therapies that require reliable and repeatable processes in cooperation with hospitals and clinics. It is already working with Chaim Sheba Medical Center, which it calls a leader in the field of CAR-T therapies.

"Advanced autologous cell therapies are growing to become a major part of future medicine. High-quality manufacturing at point-of-care, is a key challenge in making these applicable,” Dr. Elad Jacoby, of Sheba Medical Center, said in a statement.

That is evident with Novartis' Kymriah and Gilead Sciences' Yescarta, which are the vanguard of an expected wave of treatments using reprogrammed cells to treat specific diseases. In the case of these treatments, T cells are drawn from a patient's blood, cryopreserved, shipped to a manufacturing facility and reprogrammed in the laboratory so that they are genetically coded to hunt the patient's cancer cells and other B cells expressing a particular antigen. They must then be sent back to the hospital or clinic to be infused into the patients.