Masthercell adds to global gene and cell manufacturing frenzy with EU facility

Gene and cell therapy CDMO Masthercell Global will build a commercial-scale operation in its home country of Belgium. (Masthercell Global)

In the third announcement about cell and gene manufacturing within the week, Belgium-based Masthercell Global says it will build out a commercial-scale facility in its home country.

The CDMO’s Masthercell SA subsidiary has leased a 5,700-square-meter (61,354-square-foot) facility in its headquarters city of Gosselies, where it will build (PDF) an operation capable of late stage and commercial-scale runs.

Masthercell expects to have the facility operating by 2021 and to employ about 150 workers. A spokesman for the company declined Tuesday to say how much Masthercell will invest in the operation.

CEO Denis Bedoret said Masthercell SA wants to help solve what he called a lack of of commercial manufacturing capacity in Europe for cell and gene therapies.

“With this new site, we aim to be the first CDMO in Europe to have a dedicated area for large-scale commercial manufacturing,” Bedoret said.

RELATED: Thermo Fisher shoulders into gene therapy manufacturing with $1.7B deal for Brammer

The company, owned by U.S.-based biotech Orgenesis, will continue to use its existing site in Gosselies for both industrialization and early to mid-stage clinical programs. In February the company reported that Masthercell generated $22.6 million in sales for fiscal 2018.

There has been a frenzy of announcements as both biotechs and CDMOs ride the wave of nascent gene therapy development in the U.S. and Europe.

On Friday, U.S. biotech Bluebird Bio announced the near completion of its first U.S. manufacturing site. The facility in Durham, North Carolina, will be used to initially produce clinical supplies for its drug candidates but can be expanded for commercial-scale production, which it may need sooner than later. The company announced Tuesday that the European Medicines Agency issued an approval for the conditional Marketing Authorization Application for LentiGlobin, its investigational gene therapy for the treatment of transfusion dependent β-thalassemia.

That was followed up on Monday by Waltham, Massachusetts-based Thermo Fisher Scientific when it announced a $1.7 billion deal to buy viral vector CDMO Brammer Bio. That buyout is slated to close in the second quarter of 2019. Brammer happens to be one of the CDMOs with which Bluebird has relationship.